Semper’s jumper: Hard softness and soft hardness in archi-textile design

Tom Jefferies*, Annie Shaw

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article contributes to an ongoing interdisciplinary dialogue between architectural and textile/fashion design. Over the past decade architectural theory has re-engaged with the ideas proposed by Gottfried Semper in the 1850s to explore new definitions of how material practices can be understood and articulated, particularly that architecture can be seen as the concretization of textile form and pattern. The article discusses three iterations of the architectural column, introducing themes of scale, material language, constructional method and formal representation and brings together the body, space, structure, form and ornament. COLUMN 1 is a highly decorated concrete structural version, which is hard throughout, but suggests softness by its reference to textile (armature is sleeve). COLUMN 2 is essentially an architectural garment. It uses seamless purl and plain knitting with ribs at either end. It is a soft tactile textile covering to a hard base (armature and sleeve). COLUMN 3 moves away from visual ornament and explores the structural 3D form of knitted textile. The structure is entirely soft. This iteration opens up possibilities for architectural forms that explore the unique properties of seamless knitting, with its inherent strength and elasticity. There is the potential when the form is soft to challenge a perception that architecture is ‘fixed’ and to develop architectural forms that can, through post-construction processes or smart materiality, later become hard (sleeve is armature). The research brings together through practice architectural and textile/fashion references. Their further development through digital approaches, innovative materiality and construction opens up a craft/design dialogue and interdisciplinary discourse in the exploration and realization of novel textile-informed architecture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-274
Number of pages18
JournalCraft Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sep 2015


  • Archi-textiles
  • Architecture
  • Concrete form fabrication
  • Knitting
  • Materiality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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