Woven Concrete: developing weaves for use in textile/concrete hybrid wall panels.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Ulster
Department Name: Sch of Art & Design


This project develops out of a collaborative project 'Girli Concrete' (name trademarked and currently seeking IPR) between Patricia Belford, Senior Research Fellow and Ruth Morrow, Professor of Architecture, both based at the University of Ulster.

'Girli Concrete' brings together concrete and textile technologies, testing ideas of concrete as textile and textile as structure. 'Girli Concrete' aims to create innovative 'soft' interior products, challenging the perception of textiles as only the 'dressing' to structure and instead integrate textile technologies into the production of wall panels. 'Girli Concrete' is borne out of a larger drive to transform traditionally 'hard' building products, defined by technical performance only, into products that address both technical and human performance. Girli Concrete applies creative and social thinking to traditionally technical building products and in so doing transforms a low tech, low cost material into highly tactile, aesthetic and high value products. Over the last 6 months 'Girli Concrete' has progressed significantly in consultation with a concrete manufacturer.

This project 'Woven Concrete' for which we are seeking AHRC funding has developed out of and will support the continued development of Girli Concrete through the development of specialised woven fabrics specifically designed to be imbedded into concrete panels. To date Girli Concrete project has used a number of ready-made woven fabrics but we now wish to design and develop weaves using the expertise of a fellow research assistant who specialises in the area. At the same time the project will be observed by an inhouse textiles technologist who will advise on the physically characteristics of the resultant samples. The project is led by one of the co-developers of Girli Concrete: P Belford, who will be able to ensure that the progress to date in the 'Girli Concrete' project informs and guides the outcomes of 'Woven Concrete'.

The project will also act as an automonous project offering Donna Campbell the opportunity to investigate variations in weave structures using combinations of metal and natural fibres; the effects of erosive and controlled distortion techniques and the properties of the resultant fabrics.

The project is subdivided into 5 stages.

Stage 1: Yarn trials
This stage will involve the production of samples using a combination of yarns. The project 'girli concrete' has focused on the use of natural fabrics and hence these yarn trials will be predominantly natural fibres but will also introduce the 'control' yarn polypropylene. There will be a series of samples and control samples generated.

Stage 2: Trialling and Selection of Resultant Weaves
This stage involves testing the stage 1 samples by placing into formwork and pouring concrete, followed by a period of controlled curing in lab conditions.
The process and resultant cured samples will be observed by the PI, weave specialist, and materials chemist in terms of
- bonding of weave to concrete
- identification of any material flaws to be resolved and/or exploited and
- aesthetic qualities (in line with girli concrete project)
From the samples certain of the weaves (approx 5-6 weaves) will be identified for application of devoré (chemical process that erodes fabric) and controlled distortion (physical process integrated into weaving that distorts fabric).

Stage 3: Trial Manufacture of Weaves (distorted and eroded)
This stage involves the trial manufacture of selected weaves with the addition of devoré and controlled distortion techniques.

Stage 4: Trialling and Selection of Resultant Weaves (distorted and eroded)
This stage is a repetition of Stage 2 but with the samples generated in Stage 3

Stage 5: Manufacture of full size samples
The most successful of the samples tested in Stage 4 will then be manufactured to a size that suits the scale of the "girli concrete" panels.


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