Design

Weather-Activated Textiles Ensure Nothing Rains On Your Parade

Fabrica uses hydrochromic ink to create textiles with patterns only visible when wet.

Anya Tchoupakov

All images courtesy the designers

Most people consider rain to be a downer, but a group of young designers at Fabrica want to change that and encourage more people to come out and be productive even when it’s wet. To this end, they have created Water Culture, an installation of hydro-chromic textile structures that react to the rain and reveal colorful patterns, “creating vibrant shelters to improve the atmosphere of the city and to allow people to perform outdoor activities, assemble, integrate.”  

The Design For Change contest in Lille, France works to improve the quality of life in their city by inviting the best international design schools to develop solutions to local issues. Water Culture was this year’s first place winner, as it touched the themes of climate change, textiles, mobility, and mass catering that were the focus of this year’s contest.  

The city of Lille is one of the rainiest in France, with about 177 rainy days a year. Fabrica’s team wanted “to encourage people to change their negative perception towards Lille’s weather, inviting them to experience the changing vibrancy of the city.” The multinational team, comprised of Chandni Kabra (India), Aaron Gillett (Australia) and Karen Oetling (Mexico) under the creative direction of Sam Baron and Angelo Semeraro, worked to bring a positive perception towards rainfall by incorporating their hometown cultures as well as local traditions and industries. By incorporating international and local ideas of color symbolism, the structures brighten up the city in times of inclement weather and enhance human interaction with nature, something the designers consider especially important in this digital age.

The shelters are dyed with colorful patterns that only appear when it rains. To make this possible, the designers dyed patterns using local materials such as beets and onions and covered them in hydro-chromic white ink, which becomes transparent when wet and reveals the colorful patterns below. Hydro-chromic ink can be woven into a variety of materials and has been used to decorate umbrellas, check the moisture levels of soil, or prove water damage in electronics.

These public shelters can be used by businesses, organizations, and schools to mark out space and the creativity involved in making the patterns could involve local designers and entrepreneurs, making this a project that could easily travel to other notoriously rainy cities around the world. Simultaneously working as shelter and decoration, the Water Culture structures encourage the citizens of the city to come out and play, even when it’s raining.           

See photos of the dyeing materials and process, as well as the finished structure mock-ups:

Click here to learn more about Water Culture

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