Knitting ArchitectureKnitting Architecture


Leanne Zilka, School of Architecture, RMIT University

Jenny Underwood, School of Fashion and Textiles, RMIT University

The exploration between Dr Leanne Zilka (architect) and Dr Jenny Underwood (textile designer) focuses on the dynamic nature of fabrics and textiles, and applies these qualities to the scale of architecture.

The ability of whole garment knitting technologies to fabricate 3-dimensional forms, and connections between these forms is beneficial to the fabrication of digitally generated architecture that contains complex curvature. Knitting by its very nature is a parametric material system, simultaneously producing surface and form. A garment emerges stitch by stitch (pixel by pixel) made up of a set of connected
3-dimensional extruded tubes. Complexity can be added into the system through changes in the surface pattern (stitch structure) and in fibre and yarn selection.

This research explores the territory between architecture and textiles to develop a way of working with soft, non-rigid, floppy materials. The exploration works in the narrow territory between the digital realm and the physical reality, such that the digital can be realised without the need for a separate phase of fabrication investigation. We are designing and visualising with embedded knowledge of the knitting machines variables, limitations and possibilities to produce complex curvature through knitted structures. The resultant material system creates lightweight, strong, yet malleable curvature structures at scale.

The prototypes exhibited are ones that work on the idea of an undulating ceiling that can be used for acoustic attenuation. The ceiling pattern varies depending on the ‘hotspots’ of where acoustic attenuation is needed most, larger ceiling pods are needed where conversation pits are located in the architecture. The soft fabric forms are stuffed with acoustic baffling to reduce reverberation in interior space, creating more surface area than typical sheet material allows. The textile is not tensioned between structure but rather the weight, form and material work with gravity to articulate the forms.  What emerges are material strategies for new spatial qualities that are soft, fluid and flexible in form, behaviour and expression.


Leanne Zilka_ is an academic in the School of Architecture at RMIT University and director of ZILKA Studio an architecture practice. Leanne’s research explores 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.

Jenny Underwood_ is an academic in the School of Fashion and Textiles, RMIT University. Jenny’s research explores textile design, 3d shape knitting and digital technologies.

Image: Prototyping knitted architecture – full-scale prototype prior to installation. Knitted material as constructed by the Shima Seki whole garment knitting machine. Resulting forms are 3-dimensional – meaning material is inserted to create volume.