Off. utilises machine knitting and copper inlay to shield environments from Electromagnetic Fields. Continuing from Formbric, a study into the materiality of textiles to develop physical characteristics that would give form to fabric. The concept has developed through both qualitative and quantitative research methods to turn seemingly speculative ideas into realistic opportunities.
Exploring the diverging possibilities presented by copper inlaid knit many concepts were brought to light, while understanding its abilities it was clear that a solution to the textile would need to incorporate both its visual and physical abilities. Drawn to furniture and interior design I began to explore how we use and interact with our everyday furnishings. From observations I saw consumers drawn to multifunctional furniture such as expanding tables, this ability to customise and change on demand resonating strongly with individuals.
Influenced by fibre artist Sheila Hicks in the early stages of exploration I found her approach of transforming traditional craft methods for contemporary means of pushing the mediums boundaries extremely valuable (Hicks. Danto. Simon. Stritzler-Levine. & Boom. 2013). Moving from painting to fibres, colour was carried through her work with textiles, each piece embodying the physicalisation of ‘painting’ spaces and creating environments (Artsy. 2018). The transformation of the traditional crafts and practices into new territories was something I began to strive to achieve in a solution.
“I found my voice and my footing in my small work. It enabled me to build bridges between art, design, architecture, and decorative arts.” - Sheila Hicks (Lévi-Strauss, 2004)
The Bauhaus era has heavily influenced design today, simplicity and function overruling many if not all design principles. Charles Eames’s organic forms seen in many of his designs were made through new processes of moulding plywood, giving fluidity to rigid materials. Both Charles & Ray Eames' work together and exploration of materiality has set a design standard around the world, which I value and strive to instil in my work. To give purpose to every choice made through this project indicates care and a genuine respect of materials that I undoubtedly have for copper.
"If today's arts love the machine, technology and organization, if they aspire to precision and reject anything vague and dreamy, this implies an instinctive repudiation of chaos and a longing to find the form appropriate to our times.” - Oskar Schlemmer (The Art Story. 2018)
Copper’s abilities to reflect both magnetic and radio waves lends it as a material to shield from Electromagnetic and Radio frequencies. Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) shielding is an essential part of the medical industries, where machinery such as Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) generate large amounts of radio frequency interface results in the disturbance of other electronic equipment. As a result these rooms are insulated with copper sheets to create a Faraday cage to combat the interference. With Copper becoming one of the worlds leading materials its characteristics lends itself to a wide range of uses, including in the construction sector, electric vehicles and medical uses (Danylenko. Jul 2018). Developing a product driven by coppers unique features Off. aligns itself with leading products, and companies in a rapidly growing market, anticipated to reach US$171.96 billion by 2023 (Matmatch. 2018)
Drawing out on these ideas in a speculative manner proves a vast array of applications within the topic of shielding could be applied. The 2017 Copper in Architecture award was awarded to Trollbeads House in Copenhagen, its unique use of a perforated copper ‘curtain’ over the building (Platform AD. 2015), possibly lending itself to EMI shielding? On the other hand, Fashion designer Kunihiko Morinaga’s collection Focus utilised EMF disabling material to interrupt the wears smart phone signals, focusing consumers away from interacting on social media to interactions face to face (Spoon & Tamago. 2014). Creating these new connections and by sitting between disciplines the original concept was open to being torn apart and reconstructed in different ways and eventually seen through alternative lenses that benefited its progression.
With the most common source of interference in radio frequencies being between 1kHz and 10GHz (Danylenko. Jan 2018) I was interested in finding out if the copper inlay would possess any shielding capabilities. Thanks to the help of the AUT Engineering department we were able to test a 2.4 GHz frequency which covers WiFi and Bluetooth frequencies. We ere able to conclude that the copper inlay could shield at 10 dB and then 20 dB, once layered twice around the receiver.
The unit used to measure the effectiveness of shielding against EMF is Decibels (dB). By calculating the difference between frequencies received before and after shielding a measurement in dB can be calculated.
The shielding effectiveness percentage could then be calculated through the formula:
Through a graph visualising the relationship between Decibels and Shielding percentage it is shown that at 10 dB the shielding is effective at 80%, and 20 dB at 99%
Popular fabrics sold by online EMF focused store LessEMF shield from a range of 15 to 80 dB (LessEMF. 2018). Their Copper Wire Mesh shielding at 20dB, matching two layers of inlay. Testing at an industry standard displayed a promising start for developing EMF shielding, an unexpected expansion of the textiles capabilities. Not only does Less EMF provide and promote the use of Electromagnetic shielding products but also enables the public to buy and test with transmitters and receivers within their own home and areas of concern. It is clear that a market for EMI shielding already exists but not to the extent of going main stream.
Studying the community cultivated on the Less EMF’s website there is an underlying sense of fear from their customers regarding EMF. The World Health Organisation’s Establishing a Dialogue on Risks from Electromagnetic Fields from 2002 discusses the links between health risks of long- term, Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) (The World Health Organization. 2002). Although hard like most human studies to determine to what degree EMF is damaging to humans there is no doubt that the more exposed we as societies are becoming alongside the development of technology the more at risk we place ourselves of damage. Speculation of these long term health effects from the opinion of Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks in Stockholm, Sweden, examines scientific articles, published in English language peer- reviewed scientific journals to update their previous journal on “Possible effects of Electromagnetic Fields, Radio Frequency Fields and Microwave Radiation on human health” by the Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment (CSTEE) from 2001 (SCENIHR. 2008).
“excessive exposure to magnetic fields from power lines and other sources of electric current increases the risk of development of some cancers and neurodegenerative diseases” (Carpenter. 2013)
While the dense frequencies our bodies experience in todays societies continues to concern both health professionals and individuals alike there does not seem to be mechanisms in place to tackle these potential risks, especially under the continual growth of dense cities and office workers. Within the ACC approved guidelines for workplace health and safety surrounding computer usage the potential risks they cause are thoroughly examined. From these guidelines published by the department of Labor workplaces are obliged to identify potential health and safety issues and act on the management of discomfort, pain and injury (WorkSafe New Zealand, 2017). Could the implementation of EMF free environments created from the copper inlaid textile present a realistic strategy for both addressing and tackling the risks associated with EMF?
Sitting between the design of interior environments and scientific research the textile converged to a point of working to improve work break environments through an EMF shielded space. Taking cue from Less EMF an opportunity to take shielding to a wider audience and potentially main stream through a well designed product arose.
The next stage expanded on creating the most effective means of shielding, and options gained from testing the inlays effectiveness narrowing the scope of designs. This process continued by sketching out spaces that would create environments. From sketching to Rhino 3D the visualisation development allowed for a rapid approach to the synthesis of the qualitative and quantitive research acquired.
Having iterated to a point of the design looking and hypothetically functioning as intended I began to specifically design with material and space limitations in mind.
The difference colours can make within environments is incredibly big, so what are the best colours for spaces to breakaway from the stress of work? In Kwallek’s study into Colour in Office Environments there variations of colour schemes are used, and although it is addressed that there are many factors that may effect the overall results, Kwallek touches upon “color dimensions and their relationships within the environment may be more important than the color itself” (Kwallek.2005). I found this statement a strong indicator to look back to the colour wheel and pair colours that would be harmonious to create the calming and de-stressing environment suitable for break spaces.
From Kwallek’s article the colour schemes studied, as predicted displayed very different behavioural outcomes from the participants depending on the spaces they were placed in. Overall it was found that the environment that was able to simulate more than one emotion from the participants came from a balance of colours, being the most comfortable and therefore most productive for workers.
“Creating a one-size-fits-all ideal interior environment for individuals with differing characteristics may be impossible” (Kwallek. 2005)
From the Effects of Office Interior Color on Workers Mood and Productivity it was found that “the prevailing view is that “warm” colors are more arousing than “cool” colors” (Kwallek. Lewis. & Robbins. 1989). In a breakout space I believe that the less stimulating the better, it is a space for relaxing and therefore bright ‘stimulating’ colours would more likely to be present within the rest of the office to produce productive behaviour, therefore continuing that theme into a break space would defeat the purpose. Understanding the balance will be critical as “too much blue in the office and staff productivity may slow down or even provoke feelings of sadness. Too much yellow can over-stimulate the eyes and cause eyestrain, and feelings of anxiety in some” (Resene. n.d.)
Although I need to have these carefully chosen colours it is also important for the chosen colours to sit right with the copper inlay. Depending on light and viewing directions the copper can look very different, each aspect I want to keep in mind when choosing my colours. “Blue is known to have a general calming effect and is considered a good colour to add to a workplace to boost concentration and focus.” while white “can be used as an accent to a colour scheme” (DB Interiors. 2018).
Understanding the colours suited to the chosen environment I wanted to create I ordered a peachy cream colour to cover the horizontal panel and a blue to create a wave look over the vertical piece. Combined the colours complimented each other in a harmonious way and both work well under the light with Copper inlay.
Off. Utilises 10 mm steel to frame copper inlaid machine knitted panels. Each frame is hand made to custom measurements and there are a range of colour combinations to choose from. Each frame slots into two smooth cast concrete bases.