Inspired by the combination of design and engineering that lead to the invention of the Flyknit technology, Nike selected global design innovators and challenged them to create a sculpture, structure or installation that would display the technology and be inspired by the shoe. Each member of the Flyknit Collective aims to bring together new technology with new ways of thinking, using their explorative curiosity. Yesterday we had the chance to meet interdisciplinary artist Jenny Sabin, who translated her vision of the Flyknit into ‘myThread Pavilion’.
Hi Jenny, please describe what you do.
I am an architectural designer, artist and educator and in those roles I work into several integrated pads, one is as a practitioner. I have an experimental practise based in Philadelphia in the States. I also run a lab, a design lab at a university where I teach design studios and seminars and I am engaged in a number of funded research projects with cell biologists, material scientists, system engineers. I am interested in looking for design models found in nature to give us new ways of thinking about adaptation and change in performance. Sometimes that is expressed as novel forms that are playful and perhaps never seen before and other times that deals with very practical concerns such as issues of sustainability. So in this project I was interested in bridging the simplicity of knitting, its geomtery and its materiality, its patterning with the complexity of the human body. I was thinking of specific data sets that the body produces. We actually collected data from participants that were engaged in various activities and in the second duration that same data is sort of remixed and there is like spatial and structural aspects to that data that otherwise would be intangible but if you express it in a different formal way it can reveal new constructs. So that was the big idea for this piece and I think in a way it also talks about what I do day to day.
How did it all develop to that?
It’s been a process. I mean if you would have asked me ten years ago what I’ll be doing I wouldn’t have known that, so its been a process of discovery and really kind of following a thread of interest, having a passion and looking at intersections between technology, art, architecture and science. That has been formalized in pretty interesting ways over the last ten years but it has been a process, I didn’t set out with like specific goals.
What fascinates you about working with materials?
At the end of the day I am happy as just a maker. I have a background in the fine arts, I have a degree in ceramics and then also a degree in architecture and so I am very interested in how issues of craft and making such as the event of a thread and how it becomes a fabric can be brought into the realm of digital complexity, thinking about the complexity of the human body and knitting is a pretty amazing geometrical material ground of probe. The brief that was presented to me by the final collective was just amazing it’s like the best project because essentially they were asking me to riff on technology that offers benefits that are immidiately explicable to an archutectural construct. And so even though this maybe viewed as a sort of art installation, I see it as a proto type for next steps towards how we can begin to think about novel building forms.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
What I enjoy most has to do with collaboration and engaging with people across disciplines and making discoveries you know. I love this sort of parallel discoveries that happen when you may have a goal that you are chassing after but you end up with all that kind of parallel enquiries that are just as exciting, if not more exciting. I love crossing disciplines and collaborating with people who just blow me away. Not that I want to become a scientist or a cell biologist but that communication and discussions force new ways of approaching my own field with new insights.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Many places. But I guess to put it simply, my inspiration in a brought sense comes from looking to nature for design models to discover new paradigms for thinking about issues about adaptation and change in an architectural construct. So I am very interested in biology, I am also very interested in how material can inform ones mode of making in really kind of amazing ways. Sometimes it is a process of discovery and what I like to call productive failures. You learn something new just through pushing the boundaries of what a material can do and that’s what this installation is all about. No one knitted at this scale before and by saying ‘Why not. let’s try it’ there is some pretty amazing things that just happen.
Where do you see the connection between science and architecture?
The idea that the architect works alone is and old paradigm. I think in order to really adress some of the pressing issues that we have to think about, such as sustainability and the performance ability. And that also just novel formal expressions. I think transdisciplinary collaborations between scientists, architects, designers, artists is absolutely necessary.
Interview & pictures by Caroline Kurze