Ng and Ahlquist Recognized as Game Changers in ARCHITECT Magazine

The October 2022 issue of ARCHITECT recognizes “twelve visionary people, organizations, and ideas reshaping architecture and design today.” Tsz Yan Ng, associate professor of architecture; Sean Ahlquist, associate professor of architecture; and Evgueni Filipov, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering are honored for their work using CNC-manufactured knits as formwork for glass-fiber-reinforced concrete. The following was originally published in ARCHITECT’s October 2022 issue

Since working in a clothing manufacturing facility in China almost a decade and a half ago, Tsz Yan Ng, associate professor at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning in Ann Arbor, Mich., has developed a deep interest in the relationship of clothing manufacturing and architecture (including teaching a course called “Sartorial Architecture”).

Her knit-casting process uses CNC-manufactured knits as formwork for creating glass-fiber-reinforced concrete. With applications that include serving as an intricate façade panel system or as a remote concrete casting system in situations where formwork or labor are unavailable, the dynamic form-finding process also eliminates the need for typical molding materials, such as wood or foam, and the waste that comes along with them.

Removal of knit casting formThe project was conceived and developed in collaboration with university colleagues Sean Ahlquist, an expert in CNC knitting, and Evgueni Filipov, a structural engineer who specializes in deployable structures. “I was interested in how the knits can be a lightweight material that has the possibility of producing complex geometries that are very difficult to do for concrete,” Ng says. Initial studies have created four distinctive typologies: diagrid, drupelet, apertures, and 3D funnel/shell.

Each uses closed-knit formwork, which Ng considers more desirable than open formwork (which is typical for most concrete structures). “It’s more volumetric [than an open form], almost like inflating a bag,” she says. Plus, closed systems, which allow for greater quality control, require less labor during the pour.

“My interest in textile applications is sort of hybridized in the way that I think about architectural production now that we have advanced fabrications in these different modes of manufacturing, but it opens up other kinds of design opportunities that we haven’t had before,” Ng says.

by Edward Keegan, AIA

Read “Meet ARCHITECT’s Game Changers” at ARCHITECT’s website.

Different knit casting shapes