‘Glowing Caterpillar’ showcases smart-textile design

A new smart-textile space divider is able to transform not only in size but also in appearance thanks to a glow-in-the-dark, luminous yarn. Inspired the wave-like form of a crawling caterpillar, product and textile designer Samira Boon collaborated with NEXT Architects to design the adjustable screen and space divider for the Theaters Tilburg in the Netherlands. When the lights go down, the material transformation of the ‘Glowing Caterpillar’ begins.

Rob van Steen, the director of the Theaters Tilburg, set out the original brief for the design of a screen that could be used to transform this large concert hall into a smaller space that can host more intimate gatherings such as chamber music concerts. Van Steen further specified that the screen should not only be easy to adjust and store but should also respond to the theatre’s existing light fixture art by Peter Struyckens. The design response generated by Samira Boon and NEXT Architects is part architecture and part intelligent textile design.

Inspired by the wave-like movement of a crawling caterpillar, the movable folding screen structure was constructed by tent maker Beerens Intercover. Standing 3m high and spanning 30m in length, the screen is clad with a flexible stretch fabric that was woven by Samira Boon at the TextielLab in the Netherlands. The stretch fabric itself is made from woven felt yarn with an interwoven motif of glow-in-the-dark yarn. Produced by Lineapiù in Italy, the felt yarn is a mix of marine wool, angora, polyamide and elastane. When woven, the result is a fabric that looks and feels more like felt than like a weave. The glow-in-the-dark yarn Boon used for the feature motif was provided by Stoff-Connexion in Germany. The resulting textile appears initially to be an understated and semi-transparent white fabric that acts as a backdrop or projection screen for the Struyckens colourful light installation. But under the theatre’s bright lights, the fabric slowly begins its transformation. Phosphorous added to the polyester in the glow-in-the-dark yarn is able to absorb and then release light. When the theatre lights are dimmed, the woven motif begins to emit its absorbed light, subtly glowing in a light green colour that lasts for the duration of a two hour concert.

Samira Boon and NEXT Architects’ Glowing Caterpillar is a great example of designer creativity and the versatility of textiles in architectural design. Textiles are not only light, strong and flexible but can also be intelligent, reacting in this instance to changing light conditions inside a theatre. In response to a detailed performance brief, the Glowing Caterpillar is not only a functional design solution that can be easily moved, adjusted and stored but is also a playful and clever addition to a theatre environment, engaging the senses and responding to its environment through its own material performance of light and colour.

Learn more about Samira Boon’s work and intelligent textiles here. And find out more about NEXT Architects here.

All photos are by David photographie. Additional photos of the Glowing Caterpillar project can be found here.