Sunday, 5 March 2017

Photo-luminescent & Solar Yarns

This week I have come across a project that combines science, architecture and yarn in very exciting ways.

Last year, Maker Faire Adelaide sparked my imagination about combining modern technology with yarn and textiles; e.g. potential applications for conductive thread and sensor technology.

This year, the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) PS1's Young Architects Program will present a project that takes these ideas to a whole new level and embodies many of the values and interests of Maker Faire participants; e.g. socially and environmentally responsive, use of recycled materials, robotics, digital design, 3D printer technology etc.

Cornell University's Assistant Professor of Architecture, Jenny Sabin has created "Lumen", a canopy designed for the MoMA PS1 courtyard which will open to visitors on 27 June 2017.

"Made from digitally knitted and robotically woven lightweight, high-performance and adaptive materials", the canopy is designed to shade and cool people during the summer days and to provide lighting at night.

The exhibit uses three special types of materials:
  • photo-luminescent yarn: it absorbs UV light during the day and, at night, it gives off light, creating a glowing effect that can last for up to 4 hours. 
  • solar-active yarn: it changes colour immediately when the sun hits it.
  • hydro-chromic materials: they change colour according to humidity or contact with water.

These technologies have been used in paints, sporting equipment and other materials before; e.g., I remember having a fashion doll (decades ago) that would 'suntan' if exposed to the sun or bright light. The 'skin' would darken to create a tan but then fade again when brought in the shade indoors. I wonder if the principles of that doll are still the same today or whether the technology has been modified or refined since then.

The woven structures also incorporate movement sensors which activate a mist system to cool people when they are in the vicinity. The canopy has been described as a "multi-sensory environment" and an "environmentally responsive structure that adapts to the densities of bodies, heat and sunlight."

Even the seating for the "Lumen" exhibition, which uses hydro-chromic materials, is woven using robotic digital arms using a similar type of  'additive technology' as used in digital fabrication and 3D printing.  Everything in the exhibition has been digitally designed. 

Do visit the links and references listed below for pictures.  Most of the links include a video which shows the rendering of the design and knitting processes. I love how this project takes ideas from a range of scientific and academic disciplines.

It would be so cool to be able to combine crochet and technology
for a Maker Faire exhibit this year.
Exciting stuff!

How could you incorporate these new technologies
your yarncrafting?


Jenny Sabin, [web site], Jenny Sabin Design Studio, Ithaca, New York, USA:
"The studio investigates the intersections of architecture and science, and applies insights and theories from biology and mathematics to the design, fabrication, and production of material structures and spatial interventions."

Lupey Loops, "Lupey Loops at Maker Faire Adelaide 2016", [blog entry], Australia, 1 December 2016:

Maker Faire,[web site], Maker Media Inc., San Francisco, California, USA:

Maker Fair Adelaide, South Australian Makers Incorporated, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia:

MoMA PS1, The Museum of Modern Art, 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Queens, NY, USA:

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), 11 West 53 Street, Manhattan, NY, USA:

South Australian Makers Incorporated, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia:

Young Architects Program 2017, MoMA PS1, New York, USA: 


Anderson, John, "Science meets architecture in robotically woven, solar-active structure" [online article], New Atlas (Architecture), Gizmag Pty Ltd, USA, 1 March 2017:

Bowes, Becca, "Jenny Sabin's 'Lumen' wins MoMA PS1 competition", [online article], Cornell Chronicle, March 3, 2017, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA, 17 February 2017:

Johnson, Sara, "Jenny Sabin's Photoluminescent "Lumen" Installation Wins 2017 Young Architects Program" [online article], Architect, American Institute of Architects, Hanley Wood Media, USA, 17 February 2017:

Holke, Danielle, "This Yarn Can Absorb and Release Light! See “Lumen” at MomaPS1 This Summer …" , [blog entry],,  2 March 2017:

Matua, Angela, "Sit under a canopy of photo-luminescent yarn at Long Island City’s MoMA PS1", [online article], QNS, 20 February 2017:

Jenny Sabin Studio, "Lumen", Jenny Sabin, [web site], Ithaca, New York, USA:


  1. How fascinating! I am in awe of that creation and of course the yarn that changes colors. Wow!

    1. Me too! Totally wild. It would be an awesome exhibit to see, wouldn't it?