People visiting the courtyard of MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, New York) will be able to admire a rather strange knitted structure comprising two large-scale cellular canopies.
The architectural installation - entitled "Lumen" and designed by New York-based Jenny Sabin Studio - is the winner of The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1's annual Young Architects Program and is also the setting for the 29th season of Warm UP, MoMA PS1's outdoor music series.
The structure (installed at MoMa PS1 until September 4, 2017) hides many intriguing secrets: first of all it is made using over 1,000,000 yards of digitally knitted and robotically woven fiber.
The lightweight knitted fabric composing the cellular elements of "Lumen" is made with recycled photo-luminescent and solar active yarns that absorb, collect, and deliver light.
"Lumen" could be defined a socially and environmentally responsive structure that adapts to the densities of bodies, heat, and sunlight: it indeed glows in the night producing pink, blue and purple lights, while in the morning it emits subtle shades and its misting system responds to visitors' proximity (people can also touch the stalactite-like tubes hanging from the ceiling) producing a refreshing micro-climate.
The design also incorporates 100 robotically woven recycled spool stools that can be used as a practical seating system. It took almost three months to create the components and six weeks to install "Lumen".
Though "Lumen" could be compared to a living organism (Sabin actually conceives architecture as an organism), biology is just one of the many disciplines that inspires it.
The best thing about "Lumen" - a project that calls to mind other canopy structures like the Elytra Filament Pavilion by German architect Achim Menges at London's V&A museum - is the fact that it is the result of a collaboration across many disciplines.
The shapes and forms of "Lumen" point at science and biology; the background studies for the project combine mathematics, geometry and engineering; the fiber used to make it can be filed under the material science label, while the technique behind it is borrowed from textile designers and knitwear experts.
Sabin has actually been working since 2012 with Sheima Seiki to develop this weaving system (in the second video at the end of this post we are introduced to the knit fabrication process with Tom Shintaku, working on a Shima Seiki's Wholegarment machine).
As stated above, "Lumen" won the 18th edition of the Young Architects Program at The Museum of Modern Art, but it would be intriguing to see such innovative projects that also have a conceptual twist about them (in this case the structure also deals with themes such as human engagement, transformation and change) showcased not just in contexts linked with architecture and art, but also at textile fairs or fashion events.
Sabin (who is also Arthur L. and Isabel B. Wiesenberger Associate Professor in the area of Design and Emerging Technologies and the newly-appointed Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Architecture at Cornell University, and the Director of the Sabin Design Lab at Cornell AAP, a research lab focusing on computational design, data visualisation and digital fabrication) has actually worked on projects that could be linked with fashion, developing two commissions for Nike (one of them was a pavilion for Nike's New York City-based FlyKnit Collective).
Who knows, maybe after being presented at fashion and textiles-related events, Sabin's experimental canopy, a perfect synthesis of technology and nature, architectural construction and craft and design processes, may become the initial idea for a perfectly wearable cutting-edge clothing collection or even an accessory line.