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Petra Blaisse: The Fluidity in Architecture

What are the forms in which textiles and architecture can be combined?

According to Petra Blaisse and what she expresses through her designs, textiles can play an imperative role in the design of architectural structures. Although it is common to see textiles being used as decoration in interior spaces, there are in fact several uses of textiles in architecture that can transform a structure completely. Be it by making aspects of a building more sustainable, practical, adaptable, or more aesthetically pleasing. Some ways in which architects have been using textiles is to make panels or curtains that can serve as space dividers, windows, sound-absorbent ceilings and walls, and sun protection.

By applying textiles to architecture in unconventional manners, Petra Blaisse merges interior and exterior spaces to produce striking and intelligent designs. With a background in arts and exhibition design, Blaisse brings a unique approach to interior design and architecture. After developing an interest in textiles, Blaisse opened her own design studio, Inside Outside, where she focuses on textiles, interior architecture, and landscape design. Well-known for her expertise in textiles and more specifically curtains, Blaisse has been invited to complete projects for Prada, Mercedes Benz, the Venice Biennale, and more.

In 2012 at the Venice Biennale, Blaisse designed an installation called Re-Set, where one mobile piece of fabric transformed one room into different segmented rooms. The aim of the installation was to show how one curtain can be used to divide one space into different rooms, changing the lighting, acoustics, dimensions, and accessibility. The piece was done in response to vacant buildings in the Netherlands that could be used as low-budget housing for people. As Blaisse herself said, they wanted to demonstrate how to “re-use the already built and create new possibilities for people through low budget adjustments, collaborative work, forms of multiple-use etcetera '' (1). By using a piece of fabric to achieve this, Blaisse could open people’s minds on how to use textiles to divide spaces making them more versatile and therefore more affordable.

Similar to her work in Re-Set, Blaisse designed a 30-meter long curtain to be used as a space divider in Maggie Keswick Jencks Cancer Caring Centre in Oldham, UK. The curtain follows a circular form, almost spiral-like, which creates an extra room within the living space for more privacy. As well as privacy, the curtain’s textiles were chosen carefully to assist in acoustic absorbance. The curtain was designed with two faces so that the outside has a silver surface and reflects the wooden tones, and the inside, a soft yellow cotton “adding softness to the space and its sounds” (2). The addition of this one, long, textile completely transforms the room while also assisting functionally.

Another project where Blaisse used curtains for specific functions was at the Casa de Música in Porto, Portugal. As a solution to provide the perfect acoustics, blackout, and sunscreens, she designed eleven large-scale curtains to be used in several rooms. The curtains are all motor-operated and can be used in different compositions to serve different purposes in the concert halls and rehearsal rooms. A project of this scale could have been more expensive and wasteful if textiles had not been chosen as a main material for the interior spaces. By applying these curtains to precise spots in the rooms, Blaisse made them not only more aesthetically pleasing but also more efficient.

As Blaisse and other designers in her studio do more research and experiment with textiles in architecture, new technologies are discovered, and new designs are created. She believes that architecture and textiles work in collaboration with each other to define a room’s scenography. Through adding textiles, she can influence the way in which people use a space, as well as providing a layer of intricacy and comfort to every project.

Footnotes and Links

Giovanna Pedrinola is an artist born in São Paulo, Brazil and currently living in New York City. Her most recent mixed media works explore connections between the physical body and the subconscious mind in an attempt to comprehend our existence. This combined with her fascination with ancient traditions, architecture, dance, music, textiles, rituals, and cosmology, generates continuous research currently archived as text and images.

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