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woven spaces

For  protection,  humans  need  clothing,  food  and  shelter.  Therefore,  the  formation  of fabrics  (and  the  technique of weaving) is ancestral and universal. Indeed, weaving is an ancient technique that helped us  to built two principal kinds of human protection: shelters and clothes. 

By intersecting materials as tree branches we created a way to build the first shelters and walls, and by  intersecting  threads  we made  clothing.  According  to  the German architect  and  theoretician Gottfried  Semper  (1803-1879),  weaving  is  in  the  origin  of architecture.  This technique  represents  a  protection  through clothing, but also through architecture. 

In architecture, weaving is defined as a process of construction by interlacing or interweaving strips or  strands of pliable material, usually bamboo. It is a technique dated to between 10 to 12 thousand years  and  it  is also a multi- cultural  knowledge that we  can  find almost anywhere  in  the world. Even if  the  patterns and specific techniques can change from a place to another, there’s some common knowledge  based on the inherent property of the materials used. 

By  being  universal, the  technique  is always almost  the  same. It  is  the  cultural elements  that will  give  different characteristics: Affected by certain influences, as materials and ethnological influences such as  religion, politics and climate. 

By using different types of fibres, different communities around the world could create different types of  objects, as baskets or hats, but also walls and bridges. The traditional weaving is always made by using  different kinds of natural fibres.  

For  example,  by using  traditional  techniques  of  weaving  and  local  raw  materials,  communities  in  the  Southern Andes  revitalise  the Q'eswachaka Bridge every year. This bridge, suspended by  ropes over a  gorge  in  the  Aupurimac  River,  is  considered  a  means  of  strengthening  social  ties  between  different  peasant  communities  (Huinchiri,  Chaupibanda,  Choccayhua  and  Ccollana Quehue). It  is  considered  by  these communities as a  sacred expression of  the link between communities and nature,  tradition and  history. 

During its renewal, which lasts three days, the structure establishes communication, strengthens age-old  ties and reaffirms their cultural identity. The process begins with families cutting and twisting straw into  ropes about 70 metres long. Two bridge builders then guide the twisting process to form medium-sized  ropes, which are then braided to form six large ropes. When these are ready, the men of the community  firmly attach the ropes to ancient stone bases. The craftsmen then lead the weaving of the bridge, each  starting at  opposite ends. Once  the  bridge  is  completed,  the  communities  hold a  celebratory  festival.  Bridge weaving techniques are taught and learned within the family circle. 

According  to  Muslim  (2010),  the  use  of  weaving  in  contemporary  architectural  design  is  less  about  creating a new genre “but more about a journey to the origin of architecture”. By analysing traditional  weaving techniques, we can understand the importance of transmission and also the bonding potential  of weaving in different communities, and how it can be a strong source of ideas in architectural design.

Mariana MAIA / architect & designer 

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