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.


Table of Contents

November 3, 2009

There has been much discussion and literature review on the topic of interactive textiles.  Most often there are not answers, but questions which arise out of these activities, including (but of course not limited to) the following:

What is a human?  What is machine?

What is real?  What is fake?

What is to experience?

How does human experience differ from the sensory perceptions of non-humans?

How does ‘creation’ affect the nature of being?

Is technology a human creation or is human the creation of technology?

Is technologies’ goal the recreation of ourselves?

What does it mean to interact?

Is interaction a key component of intelligence?

What role does identity play in interaction?

What is the fear associated with interaction?

What are the limits of interactivity?

What role does a medium play in interaction?

What is architecture?

What is clothing?

What is dwelling?

Is the world of static architecture coming to a close?

How is movement reshaping the environment, and will it last?

Can technology address the needs of mankind?

Is the human form the only moderator of design?

What does architecture teach us about ourselves?


In pursuit of a synthesis of such questions and the thick descriptions which accompany them, there will be a table of contents through which a written work could examine these and many more questions.  For example:


Inhuman Nature

In this chapter, it could be explored what ‘human’ means, and if it can be applied to machines.  What does creation have to do with humanness?

A Machine Afterlife

In this chapter, the nature of the human could be explored in deeper terms, such as his or her spirituality, his existential place in the world, etc.

The Limits of Interactivity

Understanding interactivity is crucial to understanding what it means to be alive.  What is interaction?

The Arrival of the Rapture and its Passing

This chapter would address the future and the span of time from the beginning to the end, if there is such an end.  Is technology changing the nature of time?


Travels in Hyper Reality

November 1, 2009

Eco, Umberto.  Travels in Hyper Reality.  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. San Diego 1986

Eco posits that in America, there is a search for reality.  It is not a conscious, researched process, but an inevitable, almost maniacal bent towards finding something which does not wholly exist.  It is a perversion of wealth and fulfillment towards which America has embarked; “the American imagination demands the real thing and, to attain it, must fabricate the absolute fake”.

This book is a collection of texts that have been written by Eco on various subjects.  They may perhaps loosely relate to searching for the ‘real’, but in general the topics are varied and the hypotheses are individual.  The question within much of the text seems to be: what is and what isn’t?

In connection with the theme of interactivity and textiles, this work has much to offer.  What Eco would write on the topic would surely be a question on the goal of such interactivity: Why create interactive machines?  Is what is real important, and isn’t this a production of ultimate fakeness?  The goal of interactivity is indeed in question.  What is its purpose?



Skin: Surface, Substance, and Design

October 28, 2009

Lupton, Ellen. Skin: Surface, Substance, and Design. Princeton Architectural Press: New York 2002

Skin is a “richly responsive substance that modulates the meaning, function, and dimension of things. An interesting thought expressed by the author, and that has been said by others, is that our exterior is dead, and so anything we touch we touch with what is dead. Design is said to perform at the intersection of life and death, body and product. In fact, humans and their skin are becoming increasingly cyborg, with prosthetic limbs, cell phones, etc. Skin as a system poses many possibilities for performance and it is worth taking a new look at the organ and how people interact through it.

Other chapters include:

Artificial Skin – Skin is being manufactured, and it is being studied how to do this on a greater level, as with many other organs.

Digital Skins – Skin is being designed using computers, for architecture, product design, health professions, etc.

Beauty, horror, and biotechnology – The skin is the most easily manipulated part of the human body. This cyborg has already emerged, but new technologies are being used, such as garments incorporating safe sex devices, or just plastic surgery.

Vessels and Membranes – The skin is a ‘surreal double’ for the human body. This has lead to the development of covers and wraps that posit something very different from that which they cover.

Intelligence and Touch – The skin is our primary sense organ; it is the “plane of contact between people and things”. Some of the examples react, others are interacted with.

Artificial light and artificial life – electricity is said to be the blood of the cyborg. This electricity brings objects to life, often with light.

Padding and Protection – The skin holds within it a complex and vital padding that shapes the overall form. Designers are taking this to the extreme and experimenting with the layers of protection in a skin.

Warps and Folds – Skin hangs or clings to the body in varying ways. Fashion and architecture find beauty in these wrinkles and creases.


Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance

October 27, 2009

McQuaid, Matilda.  Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance.  Princeton Architectural Press, New York


The idea of “materiality” often overlooks textiles, even though they are some of the most performative materials available.  They have a wide and dynamic range of uses in virtually every science.  This book is showcasing the exhibition at Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum of the same name.  It gives examples of textiles that are stronger, faster, lighter, smarter, and safer than most would imagine.  A key point is that they are not designed to be aesthetically pleasing, but may be visually arresting due in whole to their texture, precision, detail, etc.  Some examples of these textiles are wing suits (lighter), carbon-fiber cars (faster), tire-cord fabric (stronger), Kevlar (safer), and robotic rope (smarter).

The processes which are used to make strong textiles include weaving, braiding, knitting, embroidery, and nonwovens.  These are used to produce varying rigidity, flexibility, and for implantation.  Architecture is typically known to use fabrics as light materials, in tensile structures.  This is being challenged by the possibilities of carbon-fiber in structures, rigidizable structures, and many more.  Textiles are also highly involved in aeronautical pursuits, such as NASA’s use of textiles as thermal insulation material, parachutes, space-suits, and the structures of space vehicles.  Smart textiles are also growing in use and possibility, as information displays, sensors, and input devices.  The electronic fibers are simply part of the fabric of the textile.  This process makes textiles virtually unlimited in their possibilities of use.


Cyborg by Marie O’Mahony

October 14, 2009

O’Mahony, Marie.  Cyborg. Thames & Hudson Inc: New York, NY 2002.

This text suggests that many experts  expect “the next big change in our evolution to arise from sophisticated mechanical or electronic modifications.”  O’Mahony questions the ethics of artificial intelligence, and how it might affect how future.  There are many good uses for technology; it is its misuse which can lead to our destruction.

Technology is primarily thought of as an augmentation or as a symbiote to humans, but it is this relationship which technology questions itself.  This text gives many examples of the uses of technology, including advanced technology of our time, but also the simple mechanics and/or man-made machines that have been used throughout time.  Their construction or origin isn’t what it most important; what is important is its use.  It prolongs life or eternally extends it.  It allows humans to go places they could not go alone.  It allows us to do much more than otherwise.

The text is much less a solution or set of answers; it is more a set of questions.  How will machines change in the future?  How will the role of machines change?  Will our master-servant relationship remain the same?  What will humans be empowered to do in the future?


A neat idea

October 10, 2009