In the world of textiles, felt is a bit of an outlier. Made from interlocked wool fibers that have been matted together through boiling or friction, felt is supple enough to hew into shape yet stiff enough to possess an almost sculptural integrity. For a group of students from the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London, felt’s potential goes beyond furniture upholstery, industrial soundproofing, and the occasional fashion runway. Toughened with resin, it might even be the stuff buildings are made of. It’s with this idea in mind that Noura Mheid, Hameda Janahi, Minzi Jin, Zoukai Huo have been playing around with felt’s load-bearing potential, with an eye toward creating a self-supporting pavilion.
The master’s candidates started small, first by using the composite material to construct chairs, then by creating a prototype wall that could someday serve as part of their pavilion.
Most fabric architecture involves stretching cloth over a separate framework. The Bartlett team’s “Flextiles,” on the other hand, offer a “new perspective on how to integrate structure into a soft material such as fabric and go beyond the typical disintegration between the draping of fabric onto a completely segregated support,” Mheid told Dezeen.
“By taking advantage of the hidden potentials of customizing textiles to increase overall performance and structural ability, such a flexible material composite can create self-standing, lightweight structures that redefine the use of fabric in architecture as a whole,” she added.
Felt’s tactile attractiveness and innate ability to muffle sound could provide unique “spatial and visual experiences” in public settings like London’s Hyde Park, which the students have proposed as the site of their pavilion.
“Eventually, the final designed pavilion explored these aspects into a leisure centre to create a relaxed environment for visitors to enjoy the sunlight and have a sense of scale and tranquility within the hustle and bustle of the London atmosphere,” Mheid said.