The Fashion of Architecture

November 6, 2009

Quinn, Bradley.  The Fashion of Architecture.  Berg: New York, NY 2003.

The metaphor of clothing as architecture has been an enduring idea since the beginning of design.  There is a reliance on the human proportions for the massing and space of clothing and architecture.  In both there are also layers of underwear, outer clothing and overcoats that define the place of mankind in the world.  There are numerous comparisons that can be made between the disciplines of fashion and architecture, but there are those who dismiss the comparisons as overlap, and not convergence.  This is because of the complex nature of architecture and its perceived transcendence above art or any single discipline.  This book takes a look at the potentials of the congruencies between fashion and architecture.

Chapter 1: Fashioning the Metropolis:

“fashion constitutes architecture’s spatial and ideological equal.”  Clothing is both a boundary and margin, a force in the widening gap between public and private personae.  Both fashion and architecture presume a public that watches and is to be watched.  This is an important focus for many designers; experiments have been conducted to gauge the reaction of provocative fashion, and surveillance is even being built-in to clothing.  This has important implications to what ‘visibility’ means in our society.

Architecture is being created in the form of both ‘place’ and ‘non-place’.  Modern architecture has failed in many ways to sustaining the types of environments people need, but perhaps fashion can alleviate some of the fears associated with non-places.  Clothing can be more than just a garment; it can redefine the entire pattern of architecture, or maybe remove architecture as the only organizer of environment.

Chapter 4: Urban Nomads

This includes the idea that the modern person’s habitat is the body, not the ‘home’.  The author points to sources who claim that fashion will supplant the duties of the architect, because the dwelling will no longer be a building.

Archigram has pushed the limits of thought on fluid architecture.  They opposed the traditional trajectory that architecture was taking; they desired to create a more complex, weaving web of activity and life, thereby enriching the entire system.  Their designs are based on a moving city, enhancing and promoting the fast-paced consumer culture in which we live.

Other innovative designers and companies which have attempted to create wearable, shelter-like clothing for the urban nomad include Kosuke Tsumura, C P Company, and Yeohlee, each of whom have examples of their work in the chapter.

Chapter 5: Designing, Dwelling, Thinking: Hussein Chalayan

Chalayan began his career and continues it with the desire to imbue fashion with the process that created it.  He also says that fashion can be architectural, because architecture is more than buildings and structure.  He explores the possibilities of interaction between environment, architecture, and clothing, the boundaries being blurred.  Humans fit into this system as actors, not only as controllers of the situation but as players.  The role of clothing is potentially enormous; it is the body and the way it can interact with architecture and the environment is limitless.

Chapter 9: Fluid Form

Form in clothing and architecture is being thought of as only accommodating to the human form.  Like architecture, then, fashion is being constructed instead of made in the typical manner.  The future has often been explored through these processes and the results are quite architectural; the space suit was in some ways a prototype for this type of design.  There are new questions regarding style and form in fashion and construction industries.

Forms: Organic, primordial forms appeared in the age of computer modeling.  Blobs, folds, waves, spirals, and twists are tilted forms part of the digital age.

Blurring: Architecture now itself questions where the boundaries of architecture are.  Architects and fashion designers alike are ‘making strange’, a process that reinterprets the meaning of certain characteristics, thus blurring its meaning.  This reinventing of architecture blurs and simultaneously clarifies new ways of thinking about fashion and architecture.

Masking and Revealing: Transparency is a key component of modernism, but fashion has often made use of masking techniques to hide the sensuality of the body.  Now, fashion and architecture play with their roles as revealing or masking.


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