Where Fashion Meets Architecture: Petra Blaisse
This past week I had the opportunity to see a lecture given by Petra Blaisse, a designer whose design group Inside Outside focuses on architectural installations, landscape design, textiles, and interiors. Blaisse has worked on projects throughout the world, but what struck me most about her presentation was the use of and focus on curtains in her work.
Personally, when I think of the use of curtains, I generally think of the average window dressings in your average domestic interior: simple, but often more for decorative effect rather than any functional utility other than the occasional need to block out some light. However, Blaisse’s design group Inside Outside worked on two projects that caught my eye during her lecture: one project that was completed for the Dutch Pavilion in the Giardini di Castello in Venice, Italy and another for the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Wisconsin. In both of these projects, Blaisse designed curtains for these spaces, but these curtains became structural and visual focal points for the spaces that blurred the lines as far as what I would traditionally consider to be architecture and the materials that can be used to create and dictate space.
In the Dutch Pavilion, Blaisse used series of curtains that moved along a track throughout the space. However, the curtains operated like a moving wall, redirecting light and sound while continuously reorganizing the space and the rooms within it. As users experienced the space, their perspective and perception of the space changed over time as the curtains rearranged themselves into 12 different positions. The quality of movement and change is what I found to be the most interesting and engaging about this project. Blaisse mentioned several times that Inside Outside always wanted their work to be flexible, but being able to add such dynamic flexibility to a pre-existing and static space was fascinating and inspiring.
During the lecture, Blaisse’s discussion of her project for the Chazen Museum of Art focused mostly on the process that led to the final result. The purpose of the curtain that Inside Outside designed for this space was to provide a sort of privacy and light barrier between the interior space, which was often used for parties and social gatherings, and the outside which was more of a public access route. The final result was a curtain that provided coverage of the window when open, but when it was stored away, it formed an architectural column as the curtain wrapped around a lance, which I thought was a very clever way to incorporate the curtain into the space. During the process, the group experimented with several materials, but the most intriguing to me was the use of plastic with fabric. The plastic gave the material a structure that allowed it to bend and be reshaped along a geometric pattern that they had created instead of flow like a more traditional curtain. Unfortunately, due to concerns over fire safety, this idea was scrapped. The combination of hard and soft would have been fascinating to see, especially on such a large scale, and the resulting shape would be something that I would imagine only a textile and plastic would give you.
At the end of the lecture, there was a brief Q&A during which someone asked Blaisse why she focused on the curtain as an architectural element. To Blaisse, there is something dynamic about the curtain, in that it is both light and temporary while still able to dictate light and sound like other static elements of buildings. However, because the curtain can move and change and there is a great deal of control over choice of textile and placement, it makes a curtain viable and flexible.
Personally, I found this to be the most inspiring for me to take away from her lecture. Spaces should attempt to create more a fluidity and adaptability. Dynamism is what I think will dictate future spaces. After sitting in one of my lecture classes that has focused on sustainability, heating and cooling, and lighting, the use of curtains in an interior begin to make more sense and open up a world of opportunity that I am not sure many architects think of. The building and structure may be able to do a majority of the work, but at the end of the day, it is a static form that is difficult to change and difficult to engineer so that it is responsive to all different aspects of the climate and world it inhabits. While at first I thought of curtains as more of an interior detail, perhaps textiles can enter the architectural vocabulary as a viable material choice for solving some of these needs in heating, cooling, lighting, and long-term sustainability.
Rework sketches from last semester and practice figures and poses
Jan 28-Feb 1
Structures: Shelter and Thermal Comfort
Skins: Materials and Materiality
Drawings Theme: Scale and Proportions
Structures: Stability & Weight
Skins: Texture and Touch
Drawings: Scale and Proportions Revised
Structures: Draping and Folding
Skins: Geometry and Pattern
Drawings Theme: Movement, “Of and Around”
Structures: Human Scale
Skins: Color and Transparency
Drawings: Movement Revised
Feb 25-Mar 1
Structures: Elevations, Patterns, and Plans
Drawings: Gender and Androgyny
Drawings: Gender and Androgyny Revised
Start the Final Fashion Illustrations
Revise Final Fashion Illustrations
Begin Sketching and Planning the Built Forms
Finalize the Architectural Built Forms and Companion Fashion Illustrations
Here is a tentative schedule that I’ve been working on for my project. I’ve been toying around with several ideas over the past couple of months, trying to figure out what topics I want to cover and the best way for me to do so. I decided that because this project does have a certain element of research to it, I would separate my posts into a few different categories.
First off, each week I hope to have a mostly text-based post discussing subjects i have grouped together under the title “skins,” which will include topics such as texture, materials and materiality, geometry, pattern, color, and transparency and the roles of these ideas in both architecture and fashion as I see it. I decided to group these topics together because they are in nature more two-dimensional and are somewhat less technical than my next group of text-based posts.
In addition to “skins,” there will be a group of posts under what I am categorizing as “structures.” These posts will include topics such as shelter, thermal comfort, stability, weight, draping and folding, construction, human scale, elevations, sewing patterns, and plans. These topics I felt were more technical, three-dimensional, and more closely related to architecture, while “skins” was more closely related to fashion. However, by no means will each post be exclusive to each field, I just felt that some sort of division was necessary.
Finally, I will try to have drawings and illustrations each week to show. Some weeks will be drawings that have been revised, edited, or redone, but I hope to have plenty of new designs and ideas to present each week.
At the end of the project, these drawings will serve as the inspiration for my final product which I am tentatively calling “Places in Fashion,” where I hope to finally and concretely merge my fashion illustrations with built forms.