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Knitting math, nature and beauty

June 1st, 2016 / By: / Projects

Jenny E. Sabin, Cornell University’s Arthur L. and Isabel B. Wiesenberger assistant professor of architecture, views PolyThread as a prototype for fabric-based structures. “I can see this as a permanent large outdoor pavilion or structure that could operate well in a park or an outdoor environment,” she said in a recent article in the Cornell Chronicle. Photos: Matt Flynn © 2016 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
Jenny E. Sabin, Cornell University’s Arthur L. and Isabel B. Wiesenberger assistant professor of architecture, views PolyThread as a prototype for fabric-based structures. “I can see this as a permanent large outdoor pavilion or structure that could operate well in a park or an outdoor environment,” she said in a recent article in the Cornell Chronicle. Photos: Matt Flynn © 2016 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word “yarn” in two ways: spun thread used for knitting, sewing or weaving; and a long and rambling story, particularly one that is implausible. Jenny Sabin Studio LLC, Ithaca, N.Y., is an experimental architecture and design group that has yarn expertise in both respects. The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum Triennial event features more than 250 works by 63 international teams, including a commission to the Jenny Sabin Studio. The Triennial theme was simply “beauty,” and the studio’s light-absorbing PolyThread knitted textile pavilion is a beautiful example of how yarns and light can be knitted into an implausible structure that expands perception.

The materials for the pavilion include digitally knitted 3-D elements, solar-active and Drake yarns, twill tape and fiberglass tubing, tensioned and applied mathematically to mimic some of nature’s best creations. From various viewpoints, the PolyThread pavilion has aspects of a spider web, butterfly wings, undersea creatures that glow in the dark and human skin cells; it contains photo-luminescent, reflective and light-activated yarns that absorb, collect and deliver light. The portable, super-lightweight structure could theoretically be used outdoors to consume sunlight during the day and release light at night.

Installation view of the PolyThread knitted textile pavilion, designed by Jenny E. Sabin, commissioned for Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial. Photo by Matt Flynn © 2016 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. PolyThread knitted textile pavilion, 2015–16 Designed by Jenny E. Sabin, Jenny Sabin Studio Design Team: Martin Miller, Charles Cupples Fabricated by Shima Seiki, WHOLEGARMENT Engineering Design by Arup Fabric finishing by Andrew Dahlgren Final finishing, sewing, and assembly by All Sewn Together 3D seamless Whole Garment digitally knit cone elements, photoluminescent, solar active and drake yarns; twill tape; aluminum armature Commissioned by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

A knit vortex connects the two parts of the pavilion, which (with undulations) is seven feet high, approximately 400 square feet, and took 10 months to complete. “We have been really attracted to [Jenny Sabin’s] work because she’s proposing new ways of thinking about architecture,” says Andrea Lipps, co-curator of the Triennial exhibition. “She’s doing some very interesting work that fuses digital trajectories with biological and material sciences.” The exhibit continues through August 21, 2016.

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