Knitted architecture and wind: Designing loosely fitted architectural textiles for interaction with wind
Doctoral thesis, 2023

Utilising the textile’s ability to adapt to external forces such as the wind could lead to the creation of new design expressions and functional features within architecture. Prompted by architectural potentials of textiles deliberately designed to move and flex, this thesis aims to explore and demonstrate how such knitted textiles could contribute to enriched aesthetic expression and improved performance of architectural elements placed in windy environments. A key part of the research is the interaction of textile and wind, viewing it as a source of energy or force that could be used, diffused, or directed - to enrich and create a more comfortable urban environment. As such, this work is positioned at the intersection of three knowledge areas: architectural design, knitted textile design, and wind engineering.

A research by design approach is used to conduct quantitative and qualitative investigations with design prototypes as main vehicles of inquiry. Specifically, a hybrid method of design-based research is applied, involving artistic making and qualitative evaluations of the design prototypes as well as scientific methods featuring quantitative textile performance measurements. Both physical and digital prototypes are utilised to probe the geometric expressions of knitted textiles and investigate the performative features of different knitted textile designs in relation to their wind reduction capacity.

The main finding from the quantitative part of the study, encompassing wind tunnel experiments, is that loosely fitted knitted structures efficiently reduce wind velocities and high-energy eddies. Along with this, the qualitative investigations, involving a series of diversely designed knitted architectural prototypes, show that knitted textiles can be applied to design three-dimensional architectural structures that are aesthetically diverse and have a dynamic, ever-changing expression. Finally, the developed framework for designing loosely fitted textiles for interaction with wind seeks to provide architects with guidance concerning important aspects of such design, including the workflows, tools, and evaluation methods.

Textile architecture

Knitted textiles

Wind performance


Research by design

Kinetic architecture

Geometric expression

Wind simulation

Architectural design

SB-H3, Sven Hultins Gata 6, Chalmers
Opponent: Prof. Toni Kotnik, Department of Architecture, Aalto University, Finland


Erica Hörteborn

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Architectural theory and methods

Exploring expressive and functional capacities of knitted textiles exposed to wind influence

Frontiers of Architectural Research,; Vol. 10(2021)p. 669-691

Journal article

Architecture from textiles in motion

IASS Symposium 2019 - 60th Anniversary Symposium of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures; Structural Membranes 2019 - 9th International Conference on Textile Composites and Inflatable Structures, FORM and FORCE,; (2019)p. 2371-2378

Paper in proceeding

Designing loosely fitted knitted textile architecture that interacts with wind
As a building material textile stands out because it is lightweight and highly flexible. In architecture, such features are usually utilised to design demountable and easily transported structures. However, once erected, the textile’s flexibility is lost, which is due to the tensioning of the textile structure to make it stiff, static, and able to carry loads. Thereby, the strength of the textile is utilised but its abilities to be reshaped and adapt to external influences are lost. By allowing the textile to move more freely, and not confining it to static shapes, the repertoire of appearances and forms that the textile structure can take is considerably widened. In combination with wind, it could generate an ever-changing appearance, but also an important functional feature – the ability to dampen and redirect the wind force. These features are especially important in windy urban environments, in which the pedestrian comfort is significantly diminished if no windbreak structures exist.

The research presented in this thesis focuses on knitted textile architectural elements intentionally allowed to move freely and interact with wind as a shaping element. The anticipated application of such structures is in building facades and urban or rural windbreaks. The focus of the study was to unravel how flexible textiles could be designed to interact with the wind to aesthetically enrich the usual static architectural expression while improving wind comfort in urban areas.

Designing textile structures allowed to move and be shaped by wind is a challenging task. It requires detailed knowledge about knitted structures, the structural behaviour of knits and the possibility to simulate and evaluate how the textiles will behave in real conditions. As such, this study aims to contribute knowledge to help tackle these challenges. By designing, fabricating and evaluating a series of diverse knitted architectural prototypes, the goal was to exemplify the potential of flexible textiles in architectural design. The developed outline of a framework for moving textile designs has sought to provide architects with guidance concerning important aspects of such design, including the workflows, tools and evaluation methods. Overall, the results seek to broaden the current state of knowledge on textile architecture informed by wind movements, with the anticipation of wider use of such structures in architectural design.

Subject Categories

Architectural Engineering



Textile, Rubber and Polymeric Materials

Fluid Mechanics and Acoustics



Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 5356



SB-H3, Sven Hultins Gata 6, Chalmers


Opponent: Prof. Toni Kotnik, Department of Architecture, Aalto University, Finland

More information

Latest update

8/7/2023 8