ArcInTexETN Exhibit in Berlin

The opening took place during the last weekend in February and was the final part of the second common course for the doctoral students since the project started six months ago. The task was to develop small-scale experimental textiles and then scale them up for an exhibit that would fill a room, the entrance hall of Univeristät der Künste in Berlin.

ArcInTexETN is a three-year EU-financed educational network where the goal is to research and develop design for more sustainable ways of living.

Through the network, cross-fertilization of disciplines and research methods aims to develop a unique innovation expertise for researchers who are in the early stages of their research studies. Students receive through the network a unique opportunity to take experimental projects all the way, via models scaled up, to prototypes ready for display. The doctoral students are divided into three interdisciplinary teams called work packages: Scale of building, scale of body and scale of Interior.

The Swedish School of Textiles at the University of Borås is coordinator and initiator of the project that involves fifteen doctoral students from different countries and different universities and companies in the ArcInTexETN consortium.

The doctoral students had to work from different perspectives regarding space, structure, material, and scale. The course focused on architecture, but with textiles as the foundation. During three intensive days, each doctoral student got to design and, with the help of a technician and a Stoll knitting machine, produce fabrics with different properties. This was done based on each doctoral student's background in textile and fashion design, architecture, or interaction design. They had chosen the material for the textiles, PVA and Pemotex yarn, partly inspired by research at the University of Borås and Smart Textiles Design Lab, where there is a sample collection. How they then used the materials differs, however. By mixing different yarns and using different knitting techniques, it is possible to see interesting properties in the knitted material. Pemotex and PVA can be activated by water or heat. One material shrinks and the other dissolves and becomes gelatinous and when it dries, it hardens and becomes somewhat transparent.

Communication challenges

The first day of work preparing for the exhibition was devoted primarily to coordination and communication among the doctoral students themselves. Several of them had only met once before six months previously during the initial course that mainly focused on research methods.

– Communication is a challenge. Not just because we speak different languages, but because we understand different concepts in different ways. A concept for an architect, for example, is understood by us who are textile designers differently and vice versa, says doctoral student Marina Castan Cabrero, a textile designer.

Several of her fellow classmates say the same thing, that they have had to work hard to understand each others’ different ways of thinking and what specialist terms from their different areas can mean. 

Reassessments along the way

Work on the exhibition went slowly initially. The different textiles had to be knitted and activated; the knitting machine worked at its leisurely pace. Participants were constantly forced to change their plans. The architects calculated the lengths of knits needed for the exhibition. The plan was to sew fabrics together and tighten them into a large cloth between two diagonal taut ropes in the large exhibition space. The lengths of six meters that were initially planned were found to be too large. It would be too unstable, so they halved the length.

The textile design doctoral students are used to working in a small scale with small objects, while the architecture doctoral students are used to scaling objects up. There were many discussions and compromises. 

– The exhibition project is a challenge when it comes to making the material portable, to working with different types of surfaces and to obtain stability in different dimensions. Knitwear materials that work on a small scale behave differently when scaled up, explains Joyti Kapur who is a fashion designer.

Filmed the yarns’ structures

The ’little room and the little body’ was also something that was to be presented in the exhibit. The interaction designers worked with this. They filmed the yarns’ structure with micro cameras and produced films that would be projected on the ceiling and walls at the opening. On a large table could be found small knitted and treated examples with explanatory texts about which method was used. 

The doctoral students worked up until the opening in between all of their obligatory lectures for everything to be ready. Onto the ceiling and moveable wall sections detailed films were projected, showing textiles reacting to water and steam. The miniatures were in place. They had created diagonals and angles in the room and visitors could feel and look at the textiles from different angles. 

– I am very pleased with our work based on the circumstances we had. We have only had three days, said Joyti Kapur, when everything was in place.

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