Mathematically generated through form-finding simulations and inspired by the structural morphology of cellular networks, the PolyThread installation is a freestanding inhabitable form featuring knitted lightweight, high-performing, formfitting and adaptive materials structured and held in tension with integrated fiberglass tubing. This knitted textile structure employs photoluminescent and solar active yarns that absorb, collect, and deliver light. Portable and lightweight, such a structure could be used outdoors to absorb light from the sun during the day and release it at night. Material responses to sunlight as well as physical participation are integral parts of our exploratory approach to the subjects of beauty and adaptive architecture.

Models borrowed from architects—such as tensegrity structures and geodesic domes—have led to radical new insights into how living systems, such as cells, tissues, and whole organisms, are assembled and function, as well as to a new understanding of how the microecology of cells influences the genome. Similarly, models borrowed from biology, particularly regarding self-organization, metadata structures, and the emergence of complex, non-linear global systems from simple local rules of organization have led to radical new forms and structural organizations in architectural design. This project is a biosynthesis of over 11 years of rigorous investigation into matrix biology and the active morphologies of cell networks. Resisting a biomimetic approach, PolyThread employs an analogic design process where complex behavior and processes are integrated with material experiments. Knitting and textile fabrication offer a fruitful material ground for exploring these non-standard fibrous assemblages. Working analogically and digitally, physical knit fabric prototypes and minimal surface relaxation models operate together as a materially-directed generative design process. As with cell networks, materials find their own form where the flow of tension forces through both geometry and matter serve as active design parameters.

This project aims to engage a new material practice and next steps in digital fabrication in architecture through the production of models and prototypes via cutting-edge parametric and associative software that interface fabrication technologies in related, but alternative disciplines. Advancements in weaving, knitting and braiding technologies have brought to surface high-tech and high-performance composite fabrics. These products have historically infiltrated the aerospace, automobile, sports and marine industries, but architecture has not yet fully benefitted from these lightweight freeform surface structures. PolyThread features knitted textile structures at the scale of a small pavilion.

Project Credits:

Designed by Jenny E. Sabin, Jenny Sabin Studio
Design Team: Martin Miller, Charles Cupples
R&D by Sabin Design Lab at Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
Engineering Designer, Arup
Knitting by Shima Seiki WHOLE GARMENT
Sewing and finishing by Andrew Dahlgren and All Sewn Together