Floppy effects: experimenting in the territory between architecture, fashion and textiles by Leanne Zilka

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This PhD is a reflection on a body of work that represents my practice as it developed prior to and during the PhD. The driving interests of the PhD are in the ‘architecture’ of fashion and textiles, and how the concepts, aesthetics, techniques and construction of this architecture might be understood and used to design and fabricate objects and space differently. I investigate how seemingly diverse disciplines can be used to traverse from the scale of material and garment to that of rooms and buildings. By working with fashion and textile techniques on form and material simultaneously, I have developed ideas for architecture where structure form and material can also be developed simultaneously revealing new ways of approaching the design and fabrication of architecture.

A key concept I develop in my PhD is the Floppy. I define the Floppy as a quality in material that requires extraneous support to produce architecture. Floppy generally refers to fabric but can also refer to any material that fails when there is not enough support, as is the case with sheet materials when the span between supports exceeds a certain length. During the PhD I have worked to define and redefine the term Floppy, to assist in distilling the large body of work in the material field, the material palette and the relevant techniques. This narrowing works to clarify where the contribution to knowledge lies, as well as allowing for the rigorous testing of approaches.

I have been drawn to the aesthetic, tactile nature of fabrics and sheet materials where I work to bring these qualities into architecture. From this I have discovered novel ways to judge material behaviours, and techniques to create form. This PhD unearths new ways of working with the selected materials to draw out their inherent qualities or characters rather than subjugate them to only support, or only skin, or only surface. The PhD is about the potential of material, and understands material as having intrinsic qualities that can be exploited. I don’t take a condition to the material, but rather look for the condition in the material.

Working on the Floppy range of materials requires extensive testing to produce architecture. The distance needed to travel to create architecture from the Floppy has exposed a series of issues and concerns that have led the research and the establishment of my practice. The practice is one that uses the physical and/or digital model to traverse the uncommon language between the disciplines, working to inform terms, techniques and approaches so that they may be used by others in the design and fabrication of architecture.


Examiners:  Prof Anthony Burke, Prof Sarah McGann  Supervisors:  Prof Vivian Mitsogianni, Prof Martyn Hook

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