Textile Tectonic

ICD + ITKE Research Pavilion
ICD + ITKE Research Pavilion

Mateo Aguilar


“Textile Tectonics explores the application of textiles in the built environment and 
the potential embedded in a seemingly primitive technique as it emerges as a major 
material technique of the 21st century.”

Toshiko Mori. Material Design: Informing Architecture by Materiality. 2011

My aim is to develop new markets for textiles in Galashiels, activating local industry and reviving its remarkable industrial past with a fresh new identity. The objective is to impulse research and development at Heriot-Watt University’s School of Textiles & Design as a leverage point for creating new, innovative and sustainable textile materials and applications for the built environment. As part of Herriot Watt´s on going research activity this would materialize valuable knowledge and canalize it into a major industrial sector.

The Issue

An Inspiring Past
During the nineteenth century Galashiels flourished as an urban and industrial centre. With waterpower available from the Tweed River, the district producing an ample supply of wool and the introduction of mechanised spinning jennies and mules generated the creation of several woollen-textile mills along the banks of the River. These Mills activated the town’s economy, generated employment, population increase and gave Galashiels an important Scottish identity as a town renowned for its quality tweeds and worsteds.


In addition a Textile University was established in Galashiels in 1883 what is now known as Heriot-Watt School of Textiles & Design. 

The High Mill - Current location of Heriot Watt Textile Design University
The High Mill – Current location of Heriot-Watt School of Textiles & Design

Present Urban Disconnection
A century after Galashiels flourished the population remains the same.

Galashiels Population www.citypopulation.de
Galashiels Population http://www.citypopulation.de

The local textile industry has deteriorated with global trade and manufacturing shifting to other parts of the world.

Distribution of the world textile production, according to a 2007 New Internationalist
Distribution of the world textile production, according to a 2007 New Internationalist

The local textile markets in Galashiels have not evolved from the famous tweed and knitwear. These markets although being a valuable Scottish heritage and exploitable in the fashion and tourism industry do not canalize the overall potential of the existing knowledge generated in the University and the existing potential for the future of textiles across a diverse array of industries. From 22 existing mills that made Galashiels prosper a century ago there is currently only 5 remaining local textile manufacturers, all related to the woollen textile markets of the past.

1. Schofield Cloth Finishers – Textile finishing and dyeing – www.schofield-df.co.uk  2. Lochcarron Of Scotland – Tartan Manufacturer - www.lochcarron.co.uk 3. Brydon Thompson Scotland Ltd – Textile manufacturer 4. David Blyth Scotland – Cashmere knitted scarves manufacturer  5. Caledonian Filaments Ltd – Yarn Manufacturer
1. Schofield Cloth Finishers – Textile finishing and dyeing – http://www.schofield-df.co.uk
2. Lochcarron Of Scotland – Tartan Manufacturer – http://www.lochcarron.co.uk
3. Brydon Thompson Scotland Ltd – Textile manufacturer
4. David Blyth Scotland – Cashmere knitted scarves manufacturer
5. Caledonian Filaments Ltd – Yarn Manufacturer

The knowledge generated through Galashiels textile industrial past has developed through Heriot-Watt School of Textiles & Design. Never the less there is no connection or knowledge network between this valuable existing resource in the university and local industrial activity.

Knowledge channels network in Galashiels
Knowledge channels network in Galashiels

As Mr. Kevin Ryalls from Galashiels Academy mentioned during the Workshop, in addition from a disconnection between the university and the local industry there is also unemployment and poverty in Galashiels due to lack of local industry.


Resent commercial developments in Galashiels have been Asda, Boots pharmacy, Halfords, Marks and Spencer, Matalan, McDonalds, Next, Subway and Tesco. Most of these are on former mill and industrial estate sites. Although all these developments are leading global companies they do not contribute to the sustainable development and authenticity of Galashiels and overall harm its local identity.

The Proposal

A Resilient Future

“Today, carbon-fibre matrices, woven wooden panels and metallic meshes of contemporary 
architecture have more in common with the high-tech filaments of techno fashion than 
they do with modernist monoliths. From the traditional to the intangible, from the 
technical to the tectonic, the exchanges taking place between materials and design 
are forging a uniquely multi-disciplinary arena.”

Bradley Quinn. Ultra Materials. 2007    

My proposal is a Textile Tectonics Research and Development Laboratory for Heriot-Watt School of Textiles & Design in the form of a test bed, a living laboratory and showroom for designing, testing, experimenting, promoting and developing new sustainable textile materials and systems for the built environment.


The Laboratory would study 4 different areas of Textile Tectonics:

  1. Textile Structures
  2. Textile Skins
  3. Textile Finishes
  4. Textile Systems

The development would consist of:

  • 4 Open platforms foundations 5 x 5 m
  • 1 Open triple story building structure 8 x 6 x 9 m
  • 4 Closeable airtight rooms 30 m2
  • 1 Empty open space 200 m2
  • 1 Workshop 200 m2 m
  • 1 Laboratory 100 m2
  • 1 Studio 100 m2

With my proposal I attempt to develop over time a new local textile-contruction industry in Galashields impulsing the economy and reviving its identity with new solutions for the built environment.

Proposed knowledge channels network in Galashiels
Proposed knowledge channels network in Galashiels

Case Studies

1. University of Bath Building Research Park


The Building Research Park allows researchers and construction professionals from across the world to develop and to explore innovative building materials and constructive systems.

Affiliated with The Building Research Establishment Centre for Innovative Construction Materials, the park aims to study properties of low carbon, low impact construction materials.

The Building Research Park has a number of test platforms that act as bases on which you can build ideal prototype constructions. The 5 x 5 m platform foundations allow the creation of small temporary building structures. The platforms facilitate full-scale trials and novel demonstrations, making them ideal for time critical research and validation of laboratory test results.

The Hive


Also inside the Building Research Park, The Hive is a new test bed where new low carbon construction materials and systems can be tested in realistic open-air conditions. It is supported by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The Hive Video

Research and development at the Hive will analyse the environmental impact of construction materials including their energy efficiency, flood resilience, structural capability and internal air quality. The building has eight individual cells that are constructed to be insulated from each other, each with a single face left exposed to the external environment. The faces are used to install walls made from a range of materials and construction systems. Performance of these walls is evaluated in real life conditions to create a more accurate picture of environmental performance than the U-value assessments currently used in building regulations.

BRE chief executive Dr Peter Bonfield said:  “This new facility will foster the innovation solutions for the benefit of the UK and other countries around the world. I have no doubt that the Hive will become a national asset, an exemplar of world class Britain: forward looking, forward thinking  and leading the charge for better more sustainable and resilient construction in the UK and worldwide.” www.theconstructionindex.co.uk

The Hive’s test cells:

  • Hygrothermal cells
    The term ‘hygrothermal’ refers to the transmission of heat and moisture through buildings. The Hive offers the facility to test out façades to prove the construction efficiency of materials under real weather scenarios. Not only can energy efficiencies of materials be tested, but also air tightness and acoustic efficiency can be investigated.
  • Double-storey cell
    At the Hive there is the ability to look at the multi-level aspect of façade efficiency with the ability to create different internal scenarios such as internal walls and floors. The double-storey cell also offers a strong roof capable of load testing large panels and floors.
  • Bladder cell
    For small panels, uniformly distributed load (UDL) testing can be achieved, testing the impacts of windloading and retainment scenarios.
  • Flood cell
    The Hive offers a flood tank that can be used to flood test façades and construction materials with water up to a metre in height.  This can help to analyse the performance of the construction before, during and after flooding, providing vital information on construction materials in the flood plain.

2. BRE Test Facilities

The Building Research Establishment (BRE) prides itself on being able to answer virtually any construction-related testing question. Created in 1921, they were the world’s first dedicated testing and research organisation for the built environment and remain one of the world’s leading, independent centres of knowledge in this field. Experts at BRE test individual materials and products, building systems, engineering structures and whole buildings using both well established methods and bespoke research tests and simulations. Several of the international performance standards for the built environment were developed by BRE, giving them a unique insight into the testing requirements.


The test facilities include:

  • Large scale structural test facilities, including a structural test hall capable of accommodating a four storey building and applying loads of up to 2,500 tonnes
  • A wide range of testing facilities related to performance of timber and timber engineering, concrete, stone and other traditional and innovative construction materials and components
  • Unique facilities for testing performance of renewable energy systems, and compliance to standards two atmospheric boundary layer wind tunnels in which natural wind can be simulated for a vast range of environments
  • One of the largest anechoic chambers in Europe and well equipped acoustics laboratories
  • HVAC laboratories, including heat pump test facilities and environmental test chambers for full scale mock up testing of internal environments and HVAC systems
  • The largest Burn Hall in Europe used for fire detection and suppression research and testing – bespoke test facilities can also be constructed as required.

Some examples of innovative textiles for the built environment

Power textiles (Located in Selkirk)
ICD + ITKE Research Pavilion
Kvadrat clouds
Element 6
BioD-Mat 70
Sheep Wool Insulation
Whisper Wool
Earth Weave
North Tiles

The Location


The site is next to Gala Water inside what used to be The High Mills industrial estate. The Textile Tectonics Research and Development Laboratory would be part of Heriot-Watt School of Textiles & Design so the accessibility and connection with the University is fundamental, therefore my site is located in the area exactly northwest adjacent to the University. The site is approximately a 40 x 40 m lot of 1,600 m2 with two functional warehouses of approximately 200 m2 each. The warehouses could be adapted and reutilized for the new development. There is also two parking areas and a grass lawn.


site - google maps
site – google maps
Site - street view - google maps
Site – street view – google maps
Site - street view - google maps
Site – street view – google maps
Site - street view - google maps
Site – street view – google maps

Volumetric Proposition

23volumetric prop

1. Structure
– External adaptable skin system
– Out door test bed
– Showroom
– Hydro-Electro-Thermal services

2. Crane
Rapid Construction, Mutation and Adaptability

3. New buildings
– Internal studio and offices with standard thermal comfort
– External and semi external roof gardens

4. Refurbished warehouses
– Semi internal workshop
– Semi internal laboratory

– Internal insulation test chambers


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