A digitally knitted pavilion made of recycled bottles

A team of researchers of the Material Balance Research Group from the Politecnico di Milano, Italy, developed a digitally knitted pavilion made of recycled plastic bottles.

Called Senseknit, the aim of the project was to use recycled engineered fibres and the technology of digital knitting to investigate how textiles can influence architectural comfort.

The pavilion consist of a single wall, which is curved and bent to form 4 partly closed areas which are used to demonstrate different architectural qualities of textiles. The base structure is made of wood cut with a CNC machine and assembled in 22 single panels.

The wooden structure is covered with 90m2 of knitted textiles, made using digital knitting technology. This technology allows for complex, seamless, 3D shapes, which are produced fast and waste-free. The textiles have been designed in modelling programmes, enabling to achieve high-performance fabrics using less material.

The textiles are made of fibres with advanced properties, including polyester made from post-consumer plastic bottles called NewLife by Sinterama, and special HollowCore fibres for a noise-absorbing effect. In other parts of the pavilion, the light sensitive fibres Lumen by LineaPiù Italia were used instead. These fibres are coated with photosensitive pigments, appearing transparent in normal light, but have the capacity to change colour when exposed to ultraviolet light.

The pavilion is divided in 4 thematic areas, each designed in response to the needs of contemporary architectural space evolving at a rapid pace. They each have a specific performative characteristic: acoustic, climatic, visual, and structural.

Acoustic comfort is essential, especially in shared and crowded spaces. The acoustic part of the pavilion was clad with textile made of special noise absorbing fibres, and formed in a 3D pattern, which increases the acoustic performance.

The structural performance is enhanced by identifying the areas of textile exposed to the highest loads and stress, and using knitted patterns to offer more load resistance. This creates a lighter structure, with reinforcement only where needed.

In the climatic area, textiles are used to control air movement in order to obtain a distributed flow. Textiles with differentiated density distribution help to block or free the air flow to obtain the desired effect.

Lastly, in the visual area, the openness of the textiles helps to control the level of light and to create desired visual effects, filtering the light in different modes and intensity.

The proposed scenarios display the potential of digital knitting and technical fibres, as advanced technologies and materials that can revolutionize the way we design and inhabit spaces,” the team states. “This intuitive environmental performance of the knitted textiles, with performative purposes, transforms the ancient tradition of the past into a future perspective.”

The sensorial knitted pavilion was presented at Made Expo 2019, Design Week 2019 and Tensinet Symposium 2019 in Milan. The project is a result of an interdisciplinary research at Politecnico di Milano by the Material Balance Research group, SAPERLab and TextilesHUB from the Department of Architecture, Built environment and Construction engineering and the Laboratory of Knitting from the Department of Design.

Project credits:
Material Balance Research:
Prof. Ingrid Paoletti,
Arch. Maria Anishchenko,
Arch. Samir Al-Azri,

Laboratory TextilesHUB:
Prof. Alessandra Zanelli,
Arch. Elpiza Kolo

The knit lab:
Prof. Giovanni Maria Conti,
Ph.D. Martina Motta,
Dott. Carlotta Bellissimo

Laboratory SAPERLab:
Arch. Saverio Pasquale Spadafora

Assistance and assembly:
Marco Livorno
Aikebaier Erken
Ofir Albag
Kasra Behforous
Abduljaleel Sabo Sodangi

Photos: Elpiza Kolo / Kn-hit