Crochet is a process of textile fabrication accomplished using a hook to navigate loops of thread through previously formed loops. Most everything made using a crocheted stitch is handmade and beautiful – beautiful in large part because it is handcrafted. What does this have to do with innovative materials in architecture though? I remember tweeting the following in response to a discussion during one of my classes in the second year of grad school, “a crocheted scarf is made using one continuous line of yarn, leaving no waste. How can we learn from this in building design?” At this time I think I was considering innovation in processes of waste reduction and was unaware that people were actually using crochet to create space.
Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, a Japanese artist has used crochet in exhibits meant for interaction – playgrounds where children can play and discover in environments that appear otherworldly. These brightly colored works of art were made strong through the crocheting of a single line to support activities such as climbing, swinging, jumping, and running.
Seeing the tensile strength of these pieces provokes thoughts of such applications for canopies or coverings on buildings. Tensile structures are examples of textiles used for architectural purposes, however with a crocheted textile there are ‘built in’ perforations in the surface of the fabric that allow interesting light play and opportunities for varying dynamism in spaces created by what is overhead. Crochet can take on many forms depending on the stitch used.
It would be interesting to design a surface that would be manufactured by combinations of various crochet stitches – with areas designed primarily for shading while others stay more open for sunlight and visible transmittance. Manufacturing, however, implies the making to be done via machine and as previously discussed the most beautiful crochet cannot be achieved through manufactured production. I think of the dedication MacAdam had to her exhibits, some taking a year to complete fully by her own hand. This artistry may be unique to curators of MacAdams work, because I am not certain that there would be a market or demand for buildings to use crochet in elements of the design when the amount of resources needed to achieve would be so great. However, I would be interested to hear of any examples where crochet was used as a part of the building design beyond an artistic piece or exhibit.
There are so many qualities to crochet that could be making it structural in this case. It could be form, redundancy, material, or any number of things. There is something perverse about crochet and building. It is typically such a solitary craft while a building uses so many other element. But both rely on a pattern set/construction documents to put everything together in the right order. I wonder how the knots in crocheting are unique compared to other methods, like weaving. It may be more flexible because of so many little moment connections. Awesome precedent!