Feb 14, 2022
People are different, they have different needs, abilities, they express themselves differently and use spaces differently, perceive them differently. And so that everyone can find their way around, and even develop, architecture should be oriented towards the needs and abilities of its users.
What is Sean Ahlquist's work about?
Jean Ahlquist bases the design of his architectural structures on his daughter, a non-verbal autistic who perceives the world through haptic interaction and communicates in this way. With his soft colorful knitted structures, he tries to create spaces that allow people like his daughter to communicate and be creative in their own way.
He describes trying to put himself in his daughter's shoes with the feeling he had at the beginning of the first Corona lockdown: the private spaces were not really suitable for any activity, not for working, not for taking care of the children all day, not for meeting friends. This feeling of not fitting into an environment is the basis of his drive to want to understand those people who, for example, have different needs due to a disability and consequently needed different, not "normal" spaces.
After all, accessibility means more than just being able to drive through a room in a wheelchair. For example, in a stadium, cheering over a goal can mean that the crowd jumping up obscures the view for wheelchair users. This is a fact that is often not sufficiently taken into account in architectural design.
His extensive study of communication and participation led him to create three-dimensional knitted objects interspersed with tubes, inviting visitors to climb, enriched with light and color installations. The OrchidsPlayscape installation was exhibited at Lincoln Center's Big Umbrella Festival in New York City in 2021. The art festival features works for young audiences with autism.
The textile object OrchidsPlayscape is a three-dimensional knitted fabric produced on industrial computer-controlled knitting machines. The production was preceded by material research such as an examination of yarn production, considerations of stretchability, color, texture and tactile quality. The textile invites tactile exploration of the architectural object, the object can be used like a climbing scaffold, it responds to pressure with its stretchy walls, it gives way and swings back, it encourages interactivity.
Image © Taubman College