Four examples of German material design
In various projects, students from the department Textile and Surface Design at the Weißensee Academy of Art Berlin have designed products from a whole range of materials. Below you will find four projects, ranging from garments to sunscreens, showing the students’ creativity with materials.
With her MA project ‘Beads Please’, Justina Monceviciute explored traditional beadwork techniques and challenged their application possibilities. She took inspiration from spherical patterns in nature and architecture, as well as the experimental designs of Issey Miyake (i.e. Pleats Please). Utilising ceramic and glass-blowing techniques, each hand-made bead is arranged into patterns following traditional beadwork construction methods.
Her investigations resulted in a collection of beaded garments, which display both flexibility and stability in their structure. Elastic yarns provided the beadwork with textile-like characteristics, allowing the pieces to be folded or re-shaped. Beads are usually a decorative element of fashion. Instead, in this project, they are integral to the entire structure of each piece.
By playing with scale and proportions, Monceviciute creates dynamic surface textures with a futuristic aesthetic. The results are armour-like garments that implicate toughness, despite being made from such fragile materials as glass and porcelain.
The project Concrete Textile by Anne-Kathrin Kühner is a material study that has the aim of developing stable structures from the opposing materials concrete and textile, which unite the flexible characteristics of textile with the stability typical of concrete.
Concrete is a rigid and solid building material, which is soft and fluid during its application. Its high-pressure resistance and ability to be cast into any shape make concrete a very versatile building material. Textiles, on the other hand, are soft, flexible and changeable materials. They are created from the varied construction of yarns into surface structures.
For Concrete Textile, the properties of both components were combined. A type of concrete with a fine grain was used, which is easy to work with and particularly solid. The concrete was then poured, without water, into a textile tube from alkali-resistant, water-permeable and stabilising material, creating oversized yarn. When water was added, the concrete hardened and set.
The “concrete yarn” was turned into a structural framework, using the textile construction techniques of weaving, knitting and knotting. Each of the constructions has specific properties: woven structures proved to be the most stable construction, followed by knitted and knotted surfaces. Through weaving and knitting, rigid weight-bearing structures were created, whereas flexibility was created through the implementation of knots.
The creation of four final surface designs showcased the potential of this compound material: a free-standing, knitted room divider, a knitted wall panel, a woven stool, and a flexible, knotted, concrete rug.
Merging Loops, created by Bára Finnsdottir, is a room divider, created from textile loops. With the aid of slits, flat, fork-shaped modules were formed into numerous hand-made loops. The modules are cut from sheets of recycled polyester felt and a wood veneer, then tucked into one another. They are connected in a hanging structure, which is held together because of the friction of the different surface materials. Thanks to the sheer variety of pattern combinations, the interlocking design allows for creativity when assembling the partition.
A further design variation takes the same principle of interlocking loops and results in a three-dimensional spatial structure: the individual modules are designed on a larger scale, made from stiff industrial felt, composed of recycled polyester and polypropylene fibre. These modules are cut out of the textile material without any wastage, and then formed into loops, creating a free-standing structure which is quickly set up, and can be stored as a flat package when the modules are taken apart. Due to its materiality and geometry, the system can generate extendable surfaces, which function effectively as a sound absorbing partition.
Solar Curtain, also by Bára Finnsdottir, is an innovative sunscreen design, composed of many shielding blossom-like modules made of ripstop nylon fabric, which are attached to a light net structure of braided nylon yarn. If the sun heats up the surface, the modules open up and provide shade to the space behind. Shape memory alloy wires, which react to heat, are joined to each module. When the temperature reaches approximately 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), the wires begin to contract and pull the modules open. When the temperature reduces, the modules return to their original state due to small springs. The modification of the surface, as a consequence of the temperature change, turns the sunshade from a very open, transparent surface to a closed, protective screen, intended to be installed on a glazed facade to provide shading for interior spaces on sunny days (see video, in German).
The project Solar Curtain was developed in cooperation with the innovation network Smart3, which develops new applications for smart materials.
Photos (in order of projects): Justina Monceviciute / Anne-Kathrin Kühner / Bára Finnsdottir / Weißensee Academy of Art Berlin