Robotic Lacing: Lace in Space

Oct. 28, 2021

Lace in Space presents the outcome of an interdisciplinary investigation into new, spatial possibilities for bobbin lace, a centuries-old textile art.

Generally characterized as a textile of many holes, bobbin lace is formed by braiding together continuous threads using different combinations of two simple ‘stitches’: the cross and twist. Building upon research instigated at the Form Finding Lab (Department of Civil Engineering), the resulting strand networks and the modular process with which they are formed provide a starting place for developing largely deformed, elastic structures with interesting mechanical properties. Here, certain inversions to tradition are adopted, including replacing soft, round threads with semi-rigid, ribbon-like material and further exploiting spaces between strands, while preserving the structural topology and fabrication sequence. The resulting structures tend to deform out-of-plane as they seek to minimize bending energy.

This new embodiment of “lace in space” creates an opportunity for robotic fabrication, exposing inevitable tensions inherent to the replacement of traditional handicrafts with digital means. In recent years, the adoption of robotic manipulators as tools for bespoke spatial assembly has pushed precise, numerical control in fabrication beyond the 2D or semi-2D realm. While these tools allow designers to engage with fully spatial assembly processes, they also introduce an uncanny valley of anthropomorphism in the translation of movements, sequences, and manipulations of material. If a robotic arm is not a human arm, how does one begin to create one of the most virtuosic of the fiber arts with these tools?

Through a large-scale built prototype, illustrative models, and an accompanying online gallery featuring relevant artifacts from history, the exhibition traces themes of labor, scale, and stiffness in lace-making through time, showing how the mechanization of lace-making has affected both its perceived value, application, and spatial potential.

The physical components of the exhibition will be installed in the glass Labatut Pavillion adjacent to the Embodied Computation Lab on Princeton’s campus. It is intended to be viewed from the outside and thus free and open to the public 24/7. The online gallery will launch in conjunction with the opening on Tuesday, November 2nd. Please join us for an opening reception on that day from 5–7 pm.

Lauren Dreier, Prof. Stefana Parascho ∙  School of Architecture, CREATE Lab

Prof. Basile Baudez ∙ Department of Art and Archaeology


Map to Labatut Pavillion