Thursday, March 31, 2011


With centuries worth of critique and theory stored in anywhere from dusty library vaults to the  hard disk of the latest Ifad, it is a surprise to find a dearth of accessible discourse on the state of architecture today. With the exception of publications such as Architonic and the 'mook-esque' Mark from Frame Magazine, there is little else in the way of discussion and dispersion of knowledge for those not familiar with the field.  Architects can be a right haughty bunch, I remember a university talk from a well-known Spanish studio some years back - the opening gambit of 'Somos arquitectos (pause), pero tambien (pause again) somos humanos' brought about an outbreak of revolutionary standing hand claps from the audience of wannabe star-chitects - strange it was such a revelation to be told they are humans as well as architects. Thank goodness then for engaging studios such as JDS, and BIG, and for the 27. project which interviews studios such as the aforementioned on a quest to de-mystify and jargon break down the story of architecture in Europe today. At last, architecture that talks to non-architects. Watch excerpts via the 27 site or follow on Designboom.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


The austerity of 2010 may resonate in the everyday working environment, but it is a different affair in the world of materials and surfaces. Leaving behind the need for layering up  with multiple weighty garments to fight the cold winter months and moving toward early Spring - bright pastels are already sprouting amidst a yearning for more solid and vivid colours. Along with this flourish of lightness comes softer and more rounded shapes, simplified natural forms masking inner high performance fibres. With less complex and more natural facades, the internal narrative of such materials introduces moisturising abilities, breathable and thermal regulating surfaces and light organic alternatives to heavy wools or synthetics.
Milkofil is a lightweight textile representative of a group of biomimicry inspired performance materials that are becoming more readily available and desirable for the everyday womenswear market. Made from milk fibres which moisturize the garment-wearers skin while they wear it, Milkofil is a lightweight alternative to cotton or wool and is suitable for machine knitting - making it ideal for use in clothing, underwear and bedding. Similarly soft in tactility, Spiderweave is a super-light and ultra-resistant fibre produced in collaboration with the University of California and Grado Zero Espace in Italy. The web material is sourced from golden silk spiders and then machine woven into fabric form to become a textile that feels like silk, is elastic as nylon and thirty times stronger than Kevlar.
Outlast Adaptive is another textile with ultra-resistant properties, although unlike Milkofil the high performance NASA designed material is not available at a high street price. Using nano technology, Outlast stores heat and releases it when the garment wearer requires it and vice versa when cooling down in a warm environment. As materials such as these weave themselves into surfaces and completed garments, designs such as Camille Cortet's 'Snake and Molting' snake skin inspired tights will become more visible and shorten the difference between nature inspired materials and structures to become finished natural products. 
Above: images from top to bottom ('Snake and Molting' photos by Vincent Van Gurp)