Introducing Fabric Materiality in architectural fibre composites

Textiles and architecture have long been associated; second and third skins have provided shelter and protection, since early days of men. The presence of textiles in the world of architecture spans across multiple layers, far beyond the mere usage of the fabric itself as architectural structure. The term of ‘Fabric Materiality’ is suggested to represent the unique qualities of textiles, their associated techniques and tools, assets and design paradigms; it is suggested as a design approach, to be integrated in field of architecture. The research presented in this paper explores the integration of Fabric Materiality in the field of architectural fibre-composites; it suggests an alternative design and fabrication approach in architectural FRP (fibre reinforced polymers), based on textile qualities. The main constituent of the composite material is fibres, mostly applied under the form of fabrics. All standard composite forming processes apply the fabric material over a rigid mould, to obtain its final shape; no traces are left to the textile material qualities. This research suggest the integration of Fabric Materiality in the design and fabrication of architectural FRP. Enhancing its inherent capacity for self-organisation and resilient quality, Fabric Materiality suggest the release from the necessity for moulds. In architecture, this opens wider possibilities for free architectural expression: from complex free-form morphology to surface articulation and a high degree of variation. The paper will start by introducing the concept of Fabric Materiality. It will then demonstrate its integration in architectural FRP through a material system of surface elements (panels), based on pleating manipulation. It will review its qualities of as a new porous matter-structure, of structural capacities.