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Zaha Hadid and the KnitCandela Project

“I have always appreciated those who dare to experiment with materials and proportions.” – Zaha Hadid.

It was definitely from fearless exploration and daring that Zaha Hadid became the “first female ‘starchitect’”(1). As one of the most influential architects today, Hadid’s designs can be found all around the world, and in many different scales. The first female architect to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize, Hadid became not only an inspiration for women architects and designers but women in all professions and from around the world. She founded Zaha Hadid Architects where the main focus is innovating and designing for the future.

Zaha Hadid Architects are constantly researching and expanding into untouched design territory, challenging the general assumptions of what design and architecture should look like. Their “vision of the built environment is that it should have the same coherence and intricacy as nature,” which explains the tendency towards organic forms and curvilinear structures (2). Hadid’s passion for challenging the norms and revolutionizing can be seen through every one of her designs, from her architecture to her work with textiles.

One of ZHA’s most intricate projects with textiles was the KnitCandela Project designed and executed together with ETH Zurich, in Mexico City. As a part of their first exhibition in Latin America, they exhibited a large “thin, sinuous concrete shell built on ultra-lightweight knitted formwork that was carried to Mexico from Switzerland in a suitcase”(3). The design paid tribute to Félix Candela – Spanish-Mexican architect – who used curved concrete in his structures, such as the Los Manantiales restaurant (4). As well as honouring Candela, the design focused on forms that would "be reminiscent of the billowing folds of a traditional Mexican Jalisco dress" (5).

With the large scale dimensions of 5.8m x 5.8 x 4.1m, it is even more fascinating to learn that the structure fits into a suitcase. A total of 350km of yarn was used for the woven structure, which was created using “KnitCrete – a new 3D-knitted textile technology for creating curving concrete structures, without the need for expensive and time-consuming moulds"(6). They then used 1,000 molding balloons to form the formerly studied shape and then add the concrete coat.

This impressive structure is only one example of how Zaha Hadid defied beliefs about what certain materials can do. Her appreciation of textiles and design can be seen by the clothes she chose to wear. Hadid wore various draped garments designed by Elke Walter, which adapt “use a lot of material, creating flexibility and allowing them to fit any body type”(7). ZHA’s investigation in textiles continued and in 2017 they developed the CREATIF Smart Fabric Research Project, combining fabrics and technology. By using “advanced printing technologies”, they used graphic design and lighting concepts “converting fabrics into interactive surfaces”(8).

Even though ZHA’s ways of incorporating textiles are very unconventional and modern, Anni Albers believed that architects and weavers had a similar methodical thinking to architects, and it seems like Hadid proved her to be right. The KnitCandela Project used advanced technology to map out and weave the fabric structure for their pavilion, which has a way of reforming the ancient technique of weaving. In her book “On Designing”, Albers said: “we find the core of textile work, the technique of weaving, hardly touched by our modern age,” and through this project, Zaha Hadid has done exactly that (9).

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 of ancient traditions, architecture, dance, music, textiles, rituals, and cosmology, generates a continuous research currently archived as text and images.

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