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