Patchwork Spaces

Textile as a tool to define space

In the book ‘The three banners of China’ by Marc Riboud is mentioned that in one situation the mosquito net is seen as part of an austere interior, a basic need, and in another situation as a luxury object. Clearly the mosquito net protects against mosquito bites, a basic need, but it is also mentioned as a room within a room. A private space. Is this private space a luxury item or a basic need? Holding on to this metaphor it is a small step to architect Gottfried Semper who finds that building originated with the use of woven fabrics to define social space, specifically, the space of domesticity. Where Semper says it is the task of the architect to define this social space I would like to refer to De Certeau when he mentions ‘making do’, to address the ordinary civilian.

The project Patchwork Spaces took place in the neighboorhood Dashilar, China, south of the Tianmen Square. In this neighbourhood, where people live on aproximately 12 square metres, a lot of improvisation takes place to create or define space while using diverse materials. The project resulted in a booklet in which images and text about defining space through textile where patched together interlinking various perspectives.

Salon/ at Beijing Design Week 2013

With the generous support of:
Stichting Salon/, BJDW, the city of Amsterdam and Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie.,

Text Patchwork Spaces

This text consists out of a collection of text fragments that together form a story on the definition of (private) space through textiles. The diverse fragments address subjects like: open and closed spaces, ‘building’ with textiles, multifunctional textile characteristics, textile symbolics and textile related rituals.

We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel: But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the wheel depends. We turn clay to make a vessel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends. We pierce doors and windows to make a house; And it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the usefulness of the house depends. Therefore just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the usefulness of what is not.
(The Way and Its Power: A Study of the Tao Te Ching and Its Place in Chinese Thought, Arthur Waley,1958, p.155)

By giving a form to hollow space, a building, room, or bed creates its own universe. This universe is a functional space that is separate, yet accessible from the outside. Enclosed spaces exist within enclosed spaces – the bed within a room, the room within the walls of a house, the house within the walls of a city, and the city within the Great Wall of China. Container and contained are related as part of a continuous process of living. The size of the furniture in a room is determined by the dimensions of the architecture, and its placement depends on the configurations of the room, its use, other objects in the space, and aesthetic considerations. As in calligraphy, where the spaces between lines are as important as the lines themselves, the spaces between, around and within a piece of furniture should be functional and visually pleasing. In architecture the demarcation and ordering of space is as important as the construction of walls and roof. Successfully organized space makes the building work as a living environment. As an important entity in design and arrangement, space is replete with meaning. Spatial configurations of architecture and furniture along with size and proportion reflect taste, social rank and wealth. (The Canopy Bed in the Light of Chinese Architecture, By Sarah Handler,

As a metaphor, the dialectic pair of inside-outside is capable of supporting the organization of a cultural model. The interior becomes the place of the self and the subject, the exterior that of the other and the object. The interior is a space that has been cleared within the expanse of the world, a space of appropriation, colonization and occupancy by the active subject. The lining of the wall constitutes the inner horizon of this space. Window and door occupy a special place within this organization: they are the openings between inside and outside, and vice versa. The rich typically lived in compounds with their wives, concubines, and extended family members. The compounds, surrounded by high windowless walls, had rooms opening onto interior courtyards. Directly inside the front entrance a screening wall prevented outsiders from seeing, through an open door, into the house. These walls enclosed and separated the inner world of the family from the public domain. (Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

Following the custom of the Suzhou region, windows and doors are fitted with removable winter windows consisting of bamboo frames inset with small square seashell panes, which, when illuminated by the sunlight, brighten the interior and display the natural patterns on their surface. Each door and window consists of a single outward-opening panel pivoting on an extension of its frame that fits into sockets above and below. The construction allows them to be partially or fully opened, or entirely removed in hot weather. This is just one example of the many ways in which a non-supporting wall may be designed. (The Canopy Bed in the Light of Chinese Architecture, By Sarah Handler)

The building has no interior divisions, but screens would have been used to divide the space, protect from drafts and sunlight, and serve as marks of honor behind distinguished persons. (Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

Japanese screens, known as byobu in Japanese, originated in China as far back as the Han dynasty (206 B.C. ~ 220 A.D.). Byobu literally means “wind wall”, so their original purpose was most likely blocking drafts in homes.

Room dividers are used by interior designers and architects as means to divide space into separate distinct areas.There are a number of different types of room dividers such as cubicle partitions, pipe and drape screens, shoji screens, and walls. Room dividers can be made from many materials, including wood, fabric, plexiglass, framed cotton canvas, pleated fabric or mirrors. (

During the day, the curtains are held open by decorated metal hooks attached to knotted silk cords, and one can place a small table on the bed or a large table in front of it, to make the bed into a convenient daytime seat (see Fig. 7). The private world within the bed is open to the room, and interior and exterior space become one continuous living environment. Similarly, in Chinese architecture there is always considerable merging of indoor and outdoor space. In courtyard houses every room opens onto a courtyard, and to go from apartment to apartment, courtyard to courtyard, it is necessary to go outside along covered verandahs and walkways. The furniture is often moved from inside out to the verandah or garden. Facades of buildings frequently consist largely or entirely of windows and doors that can be completely opened or removed. (The Canopy Bed in the Light of Chinese Architecture, By Sarah Handler,

When the drape is unfurled, it acts like a tent that makes a second interior inside the auditorium. The spatial effect of a tent is further reinforced at the back by the way in which an ’emergency exit’ has been provided at the behest of the fire brigade. The drape is simply lifted up by the hem and held up. At that moment, a view arises from outside to inside. Inner and outer drape are then simultaneously visible. (Inside-outside, On the work of Petra Blaisse and the architecture of the drape, Dirk van den Heuvel, 1997)

I had come through the wall.
I was sitting on a carpeted floor, my back against a clothcovered wall. (The wind-up bird chronicle, Haruki Murakami, 2003, p.551)

For Semper, building originated with the use of woven fabrics to define social space, specifically, the space of domesticity. But the textiles were not simply placed within space to define a certain interiority. They were not simply arranged on the landscape to divide off a small space that could be occupied by a particular family. Rather, they are the production of space itself, launching the very idea of occupation. (White Walls, Designer Dresses, Mark Wigley, 1995, p.11)

Weaving was used “as a means to make the ‘home’, the inner life separated from the outer life, and as the formal creation of the idea of space.” Housing is an effect of decoration then. It is not that the fabrics are arranged in a way that provides shelter. Rather, their texture, their sensuous play, their textuality, like that of the languages that Semper studied, opens up a space of exchange. The decorative weave produces the idea of a group that might occupy it, in the same way that a language produces the idea of a group that might speak it. Space, house, and social structure arrive with ornament. The interior is not defined by a continuous enclosure of walls but by the folds, twists, and turns in an often discontinuous ornamental surface. (White Walls, Designer Dresses, Mark Wigley, 1995, p.11)

This primordial definition of inside and, therefore the first time, outside, with textiles not only precedes the construction of solid walls but continues to organize the building when such construction begins. Solid structure follows, and is subordinate to, what appear toe be merely its accessories: Hanging carpets remained the true walls, the visible boundaries of space. The often solid walls behind them were necessary for reasons that had nothing to do with the creation of space: they were needed for security, for supporting a load, for their permanence and so on. Wherever the need for these secondary functions did not arise, the carpets remained the original means of separating space. Even when building solid walls became necessary, the latter were only the inner, invisible structure hidden behind the true and legitimate representatives of the wall, the colourful woven carpets.
(White Walls, Designer Dresses, Mark Wigley, 1995, p.12)

Xifeng remarks that in the silk store she saw some beautiful rose-coloured gauze. This Grandmother Jia explains is `haze diaphene’ which: – `… used to come in four colours: “clear-sky blue”, “russet green”, “pine green” and “old rose”. Hung up as bed-curtains or pasted in windows it looks from a distance like a coloured haze. That’s why they called it “haze diaphene”. The old rose kind is sometimes called “afterglow”. You won’t find fabric made as fine or as soft as that nowadays, not even among the gauzes made for the Imperial Household…When we first had it, we used it only for covering windows with, but later on we began experimenting and found that it made very good quilts and bed-curtains as well. Get a few lengths of it out tomorrow. You can use the “old rose” kind to re-cover these windows with…if you find the “clear-sky blue”…I should like two lengths myself for a set of bed-hangings; and any left over can be matched with suitable lining-material and made up into waistcoats for the girls…’ (Cao, vol. 2, pp. 282-84)

Repeatedly identifying architecture with clothing, Loos follows Semper’s arguments closely. This is nowhere more explicit than when he formulates the “Law of Dressing” in his 1898 essay “Das Prinzip der Bekleidung” (The principle of dressing) in which architecture emerges from textiles and structure is but the scaffolding added to hold them up: The architect’s general task is to provide a warm and liveable space. Carpets are warm and liveable. He decides fort his reason to spread out one carpet on the floor and to hang up four to form the four walls. (White Walls, Designer Dresses, Mark Wigley, 1995, p.13)

Curtains are hung in windows, doorways and on canopy beds. Sometimes a valance is hung along the top of the curtains. In Figure 9, the valances in both window and bed parallel each other beautifully in form and function. Here the bed is furnished with a thin mattress covered in a colourful fabric, and with a pillow and silk-covered quilt. In hot weather it has a cool bamboo mat. When perfumed balls, censers or flowers are hung within the curtains, a fragrant refuge is created. (The Canopy Bed in the Light of Chinese Architecture, By Sarah Handler,

Seeing the drape as a primal source of architecture undermines our conventional understanding of architecture as a stable and slow discipline. The architecture of the drape is basically an architecture of the provisional, the temporary; the tent and the tabernacle, not the patio house or the temple, are the primal types of this architecture. From this angle, the drape denotes a difference, in this case a difference in time; and in tragic terms, it denotes the temporary and transient nature of human nature itself. (Inside-outside, On the work of Petra Blaisse and the architecture of the drape, Dirk van den Heuvel, 1997)

The curtains were made of silk and often embroidered or figured with flying immortals and other auspicious patters. (Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

Among the various types of furniture, the canopy bed is the most architectural. Like a building, the canopy bed provides shelter and protection, shielding the inhabitants from other people, draughts and insects. It has a roof supported by posts and resembles a three-bay building with a wide central bay flanked by smaller bays. As in architecture, the posts provide the structural support while the railings between are infilling, like curtain walls. (The Canopy Bed in the Light of Chinese Architecture, By Sarah Handler,

The interiors of the houses of the rich had brick floors and textiles on the walls for warmth and decoration. Light and ventilation came through lattice windows that literary records suggest were sometimes covered with silk. A number of pottery tomb models of houses show the lattice extending down to the floor beside the main door so that the inhabitants seated on mats on the floor would have light and air. (Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

Openwork and lattice-work provide partial privacy – separating, yet allowing fragmented vision and the circulation of light and air. (The Canopy Bed in the Light of Chinese Architecture, By Sarah Handler,

Blaisse uses the following means to give the curtain an architectural effect: 1. light, air and movement; 2. seam, hem and fold; and 3. texture and pattern. The directly intended effects relate to volume, scale and sculptural quality, transparency and reflection and division of space and time. (Inside-outside, On the work of Petra Blaisse and the architecture of the drape, Dirk van den Heuvel, 1997)

The panels in the front railing of the bed resemble those on the bamboo canopy bed in fig. 10.10, a painting illustrating the episode in The plum in the Golden Vase where the cuckold Hua Zixu dies of chagrin. Transparent curtains hang behind and offset the openwork designs. One side of the curtain has been hooked back and the blue blind rolled up to allow the young man to lean on a narrow table placed in front of the bed for daytime use. He is wrapped in a quilt, which would normally be folded neatly against the back railing of the bed during the day. Low footstools, such as the one depicted here, are always used with beds. (Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

Mao Tse-tung’s bed in Yennan. After the Long March in the 1930’s the Chinese Communists hid in these caves in the cliff face. They lived here for more than ten years, formulating their doctrine. The men who even today are responsible for China’s policy were schooled here under rigorous conditions. “A mosquito-net was the most luxurious thing I possessed in Yennan,” Mao has said. (The three banners of China, Marc Riboud, 1966, p.28)

At night, drawn curtains would have provided privacy and protection from insects. (Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

The first mosquito nets were used exclusively by the aristocracy. However, like most things, in time its use became more generalized and spread down the social ladder until it reached the middle and to some degree the lower classes. Basil Hall Chamberlain in his Things Japanese, originally published in 1890, wrote that there was still an even poorer underclass which was forced to use green wood because it produced the most smoke. He testified that he had had to endure this practice and that it was most disagreeable. When he was writing little was known about the history of the kaya in Japan – at least among Westerners. Chamberlain assumed that it had first been imported by the Portuguese in the 16th c. Many things were, but not netting. By the 15th c. a cottage industry had developed at Nara where the netting was made from raw silk. By the 17th c. much of the production of netting was centered in Oomi in Shiga prefecture where it was made on a mass scale. Linen was imported from Echizen and then dyed and woven. Originally this was placed over a bamboo structure. Like all great industries it evolved with technological advances. However, the horogaya, a small bamboo frame with netting, was still used to shelter small children and babies as can be seen by the Kunisada illustration shown below. In time the bamboo frame was replaced with a system of rings and hooks. “The fabric was a rough broadcloth weave of green linen threads, which was then pieced together into a rectangular ‘tent’ of four walls, a ceiling, and no floor, bordered in red at the seams. The ceiling sheet would have loops at the four corners for suspension in nail in the structural posts.” They were designed to fit the rooms. (

Cloth was a significant item purchased by the peasants. Each person in 1979, was allotted 13 chi (about 4 metres) of cotton cloth per year, or about enough for one adult’s suit of clothes, including top and trousers. The villagers had several choices in using their cloth rations. They could buy 100% cotton cloth in the amount specified, or they could buy large amounts of cloth woven from 10% Dacron and 40% cotton. A ration coupon good for the purchase of 3 chi (1 meter) of 100% cotton cloth could be used for 7.5 chi (2,5 metres) of Dacron and cotton mixture. A third choice, at least in theory, would be to buy cloth made entirely of artificial fiber, but this was far too expensive. Cotton cloth coupons were also necessary to buy mosquito netting, which was an essential item for villagers. A ration coupon good for 3 chi (1 meter) of cotton cloth would be used to buy 36 chi of mosquito netting. Completely artificial-fiber cloth was 4.65 yuan per meter; no ration coupon was necessary, since this cloth contained no cotton. (China’s peasants, the anthropology of a revolution, Sulamith Heins Potter, Jack Potter, 1990)

This brings up several fascinating bits of superfluous information: The Egyptians created absolutely remarkable close-weave linens more than 3,000 years ago. The Romans reclined on a bed or couch under such netting. This was a conopeum. From conopeum we get the word canopy. But it gets much more interesting than that. In Greece it was a referred to as a khonopeion from the word khonops which meant gnat or mosquito. Shipley tells that that is the origin of the word ‘canapé . Ancient Romans and Greeks would often dine on their couches reclining under the protection of draped mosquito netting. Hence, a canapé is a small bite taken by man similar to the small bite taken by the khonops or mosquito out of that same man.

Here is the room where Mao spent his childhood. The earth floor, dried mud walls, and simple furniture are explained to visitors as examples of the austerity which must shape the new generation. On the other side of the pond, a peasant family still lives in similar conditions. The bed with it’s mosquito-net, is like Mao’s. (The three banners of China, Marc Riboud, 1966, p.27)

This dormitory, where seven female students of the university of Kunming are spending four years studying, is as bare as a convent cell. The bed consists of a thin piece of matting upon a narrow frame, together with a mosquito-net. On the shelf there are some books, including the works of Mao. On the wall there is a picture of Lenin and the five rules for “model dormitory behaviour.” Most of the students are of peasant and working-class stock. Austere and disciplined though it is, university life seems like luxury to these peasants’ daughters. (The three banners of China, Marc Riboud, 1966, p.78)

Later Needham adds that the first mention of mosquito netting in China was a reference made by a botanist in the 18th century. But remember that is simply the earliest reference he could find. Such an item may have been around for hundreds of years before that especially considering that the Japanese had long used such netting to protect themselves. (

In front of the bed a burning candle indicates that it is night. The transparent bed curtains have been let down from the brass hook that dangles on its elaborately knotted and tasselled silk cord. Inside, the bed is equipped with a thin brocade-covered mattress and silk quilt. The canopy is decorated with branches of flowering plum, a symbol of fertility and creative power. The bed stands in the middle of the room surrounded by a high folding screen for privacy. On the screen are painted waves below a moon encircled by scudding clouds. (Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

Traditional canopy beds are commonly used in Chinese vernacular dwellings. During winter nights, when the ambient air temperature can be below – 7 °C, residents are able to sleep comfortably in their bedrooms – the thick exterior wall, air gap, timber panels lining the bedroom, canopy bed and one or two layers of thick quilts both underneath and above the occupants’ bodies all contribute to this. (The Thermal Comfort of Vernacular Skywell Dwellings in South-eastern China, Zhongcheng Duan, Brian Ford, Benson Lau)

They become the wall rather than simply decorate it, a “woollen wall” as he puts It in a 1960 essay that was published in an issue of Zodiac that also carried advertisements for his wallpaper. The polychrome weave defines the space, its play of color taking over the architectonic function of the wall. Tapestries “enter into the composition of modern architecture not as decoration but as a useful element.” Their functional role is the constitution of space. (White Walls, Designer Dresses, Mark Wigley, 1995, p.250)

Tibetan tents on the contrary are very thin in comparison where the sky can be seen through the hand spun yarn inside the tent. Nomad tents are held up using hand spun yak wool rope and 8 to 12 wooden poles. The top of the tent has a large opening that is used to let smoke out and to let the warm sunshine in. Prayer flags are in abundance and can be found flying from the tent roofs. (

The canopy is hung with patterned silk and bedecked with flags. (Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

In 1949, the eve of the founding of the PRC Premier Zhou Enlai, Rui Fu Xiang (a chain of silk stores in eastern China) produced designated the first surface of the PRC national flag – the flag. (

Writers such as Wen Zhenheng had definite ideas about what was appropriate and inappropriate for bed curtains: Bed curtains for the winter months should be of pongee silk or of thick cotton with purple patterns. Curtains of paper or of plain-weave, spun-silk cloth are both vulgar, while gold brocaded silk curtains and those of bo silk are for the women’s quarters. Summer curtains can be of banana fibre, only these are not easy to obtain. Curtains of blue fine gauze from Suzhou, or curtains of patterned towelling are also acceptable. There are those which are made of silk for painting, with landscapes or monochrome ink paintings of plum blossom on them, but these all achieve vulgarity while striving for elegance. (Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

And in The Story of the Wester Wing there is a reference to an incense censer used to perfume the bedding when the maid Crimson tries to cheer up her lovesick mistress: “Sister, you’re not feeling well. I will infuse your covers until they are, oh, so fragrant so that you may sleep a little.” Thus the canopy bed becomes a fragrant flower-filled world, a retreat for lovers and dreamers. (Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

Li Yu then goes on to describe in detail how he makes the bed bloom with flowers by growing real flowers up the posts. Or he builds a narrow wooden shelf for flower pots and wraps them in embroidered silk so that they resemble fantastic rocks or floating clouds. Then lying within the bed curtains he feels “My body is no longer a body, but a butterfly flitting about, sleeping and eating among flowers. Man is no longer man but an immortal, strolling about and reclining paradise.” (Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

Long bed curtains are mentioned in “Summons of the Soul” (“Zhao hun”), a contemporaneous poem from the kingdom of Chu. In the poem the wandering soul is called back to all the good things of life, including the canopy bed, which is, by implication, a private paradise for intimate joys. (Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

The lucky inhabitants of the canopy bed lay within the closed curtains as in their own private world whose special aura was created by the fabric, which ranged from diaphanous gauze to heavy patterned brocade. The illusion broke when they arose and hooked back the curtains during the day. (Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

China is expected to unveil a plan for a long-term mechanism to nurture the healthy development of the real estate market in the next three months, a senior industry official said Wednesday. (

Multifunctional furniture had a rhetorical meaning for Rodchenko through its demonstration of a potential for action. Users would realize this potential by interacting meaningfully with the objects rather than relating passively to them. (The Struggle for Utopia, Victor Margolin, 1997
p. 89)

The frame would have been hung with silk curtains, which were let down at night and drawn back for daytime sitting. (Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

The architecture of the drape at most makes these differences temporarily present, and in that sense, the architecture of the drape is an architecture of situations. (Inside-outside, On the work of Petra Blaisse and the architecture of the drape, Dirk van den Heuvel, 1997)

A most versatile piece of furniture, it is a bed at night and a seat where friends may be entertained during the day when the curtains are drawn back, the quilts are folded against the back railing, and a small table is placed on the mattress. At night the curtains come down and the canopy bed transforms into a private enclosure for pleasure and rest. Thus the bed becomes a unique form of furniture, a room within a room. (Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

Rodchenko’s belief in an ideal user who was alert, purposeful, and precise led to his interest in objects with multiple functions which required a creative intelligence to manipulate.
(The Struggle for Utopia, Victor Margolin, 1997 p.89)

The mat-level mode of living clearly influenced the houses that people lived in at this time. The low furniture was neither abundant nor highly specialized, and it could be moved easily to serve several functions. It determined the proportions of the house, which might have one or more stories, and the lack of division into rooms.
(Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

This shift of definition derived from Malevich’s interest in time as the “fourth dimension” of representation and was essential to Lissitzky’s move beyond the stasis of the picture surface to depict spaces that could only be experienced fully through motion. The viewer has to move in and around the Proun, a process that reveals multiple axes.
(The Struggle for Utopia, Victor Margolin, 1997 p.32)

A tent is a shelter consisting of sheets of fabric or other material draped over, attached to a frame of poles or attached to a supporting rope. While smaller tents may be free-standing or attached to the ground, large tents are usually anchored using guy ropes tied to stakes or tent pegs. First used as portable homes by nomadic peoples, tents are now more often used for recreational camping and temporary shelters.

Although the processes in which buildings come about nowadays give every cause for an architecture of the temporary, the manifestation and materialization of buildings appeal to values of solidity and permanence. (Inside-outside, On the work of Petra Blaisse and the architecture of the drape, Dirk van den Heuvel, 1997)

What touched me most was that the huts were left so neatly, despite the awareness that every day could be the last. Blankets lay neatly folded and coats were tidily hung. (Shelter, Henk Wildschut, 2010)

A shortage means there is tough competition to get official accommodation at Liaocheng University in Shandong province in eastern China, so staff decided the unusual test was the best way to root out slovenly students. In scenes difficult to imagine at a British university, about 200 students were given 20 minutes to fold the quilts and prove they were neat and tidy enough to win one of the coveted places. (

The seat of the Baoshan bed has braces along the width and was spread with a silk wadded quilt over bamboo and grass mats. To dismantle the bed, one must first remove the braces and separate the two square frames. Since the fronts and backs of the frames are hinged just before they join the short sides, they can then be folded against the sides. The whole bed then becomes a bundle 135,6 cm long, which was easy to carry into the tomb and took up less space than the fully assembled bed. (Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

Dismantling a bed for easy transport and storage is comparatively simple and quick – only twenty minutes for the large alcove bed in Figure 11. (The Canopy Bed in the Light of Chinese Architecture, By Sarah Handler,

Lissitzky, on the other hand, held the idealist conviction that forms could embody a new consciousness by pointing to a state or condition outside the limitations of contemporary lived experience.
(The Struggle for Utopia, Victor Margolin, 1997 p.10)

Bed curtains, and probably the bedstead itself, were part of a bride’s trousseau, as we learn from a moving poet that Wang Song (third century) wrote after her husband of some twenty years, general Liu Xun, left her for a younger wife.
Your curtain is flapping before the bed!
I strung you there to screen us from daylight,
When I left my father’s house I took you with me
Now I take you back.
I will fold you neatly and lay you flat in your box.
Curtain, will I ever take you out again?
(Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

The advantage of the wall hangings is its mobility, its complete independence from the structure that holds it up. Le Corbusier speculates that “modern man is a nomad.” The tapestries he designs are “muralnomad” that can be moved from room to room, building to building. To a certain extent they become the building. Modern nomads, like their primitive ancestors, carry their space with them. The home defined by the fabric is distinguished from the shelter it is suspended in. The fabric itself has an “architectural potential” that can be applied in any situation”: “Our nomad moves because his family increases in number, or, on the contrary, because his children have married. Tapestry gives him the opportunity to posses a ‘mural,’ that is, a large painting of architectural potential. Is he moving? He will roll up his mural, tuck it under his arm and go down the stairs to install his shelter”
(White Walls, Designer Dresses, Mark Wigley, 1995, p.251)

Now we can see clearly how such bedsteads formed a room within a room. The curtains were raised and screens opened for daytime sitting. At night the bed was completely enclosed, providing privacy in living quarters where extended families and their servants all lived together in open halls divided into smaller apartments by screens.
(Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Sarah Handler, 2001)

The mobility of the textile takes over from the mural that mobilizes walls but remains fixed in one place. While the painted wall still makes sense in public spaces, it can no longer define the space of the home, a space that is once again worn by a mobile subject. In a late interview, Le Corbusier argues that to be “at home” today is not to occupy the “rental boxes” in which the modern nomad lives, no matter how palatial or well they are designed, but to experience the sensuous “intimacy” provide by the weave of the tapestries that are carried from box to box.
(White Walls, Designer Dresses, Mark Wigley, 1995, p.252)

Being in transit leads to temporary solutions to the need of housing – a shelter. Certain creativity is required to build a shelter from found materials. Somewhere I recognize those human qualities in these temporary structures.
(Shelter, Henk Wildschut, 2010)

According to Andrew Blauvelt who relies on the work of Certeau in his essay on design and everyday life:[2] “Certeau’s investigations into the realm of routine practices, or the “arts of doing” such as walking, talking, reading, dwelling, and cooking, were guided by his belief that despite repressive aspects of modern society, there exists an element of creative resistance to these strictures enacted by ordinary people. In The Practice of Everyday Life, de Certeau outlines an important critical distinction between strategies and tactics in this battle of repression and expression. (

Despite government measures, housing is increasingly out of reach for ordinary Chinese.
Rising home prices, especially in major cities, are prompting a growing chorus of discontent among ordinary Chinese.

These expert home dressmakers gained a certain power through their personal efforts and engagement. Through such limited tactics, women negotiated with the official strategies, which seek to conquer visible and well-defined space and mater time and knowledge in order to exercise their power and domination, tactics are ‘an art of the weak”, and their concept of space and time is dispersed (Certeau 1988, 35-38).
(Fashion East, The spectre that haunted socialism, Djurdja Bartlett, p.251)

Perhaps the most influential aspect of The Practice of Everyday Life has emerged from scholarly interest in Certeau’s distinction between the concepts of strategy and tactics. Certeau links “strategies” with institutions and structures of power who are the “producers”, while individuals are “consumers” acting in environments defined by strategies by using “tactics”. In the influential chapter “Walking in the City”, Certeau asserts that “the city” is generated by the strategies of governments, corporations, and other institutional bodies who produce things like maps that describe the city as a unified whole. Certeau uses the vantage from the World Trade Center in New York to illustrate the idea of a synoptic, unified view. By contrast, the walker at street level moves in ways that are tactical and never fully determined by the plans of organizing bodies, taking shortcuts in spite of the strategic grid of the streets. This concretely illustrates Certeau’s argument that everyday life works by a process of poaching on the territory of others, using the rules and products that already exist in culture in a way that is influenced, but never wholly determined, by those rules and products.

The fastest growing cities are not skyscraper cities, their self-made cities in one form or another. (….) I think designs’ great project in the 21st century is the democratisation of production.
for_the_people_by_the_people.html, 14 aug)

Le Corbusier’s whole thinking of the modern object is organized in terms of clothes. Objects are understood as “auxiliary limbs,” prosthetic additions “supplementing” the fixed structure of the body. It is symptomatic that Le Corbusier draws on the story of Diogenes, who abandoned all his excesses, his clothing and possessions, and lived in a barrel that he walked around with.
(White Walls, Designer Dresses, Mark Wigley, 1995, p.18)

Diogenes of Sinope was a controversial figure. His father minted coins for a living, and when Diogenes took to “defacement of the currency,” he was banished from Sinope.[1] After being exiled, he moved to Athens to debunk cultural conventions. Diogenes modelled himself on the example of Hercules. He believed that virtue was better revealed in action than in theory. He used his simple lifestyle and behaviour to criticise the social values and institutions of what he saw as a corrupt society. He declared himself a cosmopolitan. There are many tales about him dogging Antisthenes’ footsteps and becoming his faithful hound.[3] Diogenes made a virtue of poverty. He begged for a living and slept in a large ceramic jar[4] in the marketplace. He became notorious for his philosophical stunts such as carrying a lamp in the daytime, claiming to be looking for an honest man.

The terrain was sandwiched between a factory and a suburb. From the road there was nothing special to see, just a few villas with backyards bordering the forest. Between the trees I came across colourful shacks made of blankets and clothing and all sorts of waste materials, carefully tied together with bits of rope and tape.
(Shelter, Henk Wildschut, 2010)

The first visual impression is that of poverty – an immense ocean of poverty. What is more, the Chinese make no attempt to conceal it. In the old sections of the big cities we saw houses crumbling with age, patched up with bits of wire and pieces of cardboard. We saw unpainted shopfronts corroded by time; unpaved streets; men and women wearing clothes which had been patched innumerable times.
(The Three Banners of China, Marc Riboud, 1966, p.13)

During that time period, there was a popular saying that went: ‘New for three years, old for three years and patched for another three years’. It reflects the thrifty and hardworking spirit of the day, when clothes were mended and patched again and again to get the most use out of them.
In a time of harsh economic conditions and scare materials, wearing new clothes was considered shameful. The attitude was so prevalent that many people sewed patches on to little worn or new clothes so that they would look old.
( Traditions

In contrast to the socialist fashion that was paraded at socialist congresses, exhibited at domestic and international fairs, and presented in glossy magazines, everyday fashion existed in an alternative, unofficial modernity and conformed to a different, faster and fragmented concept of time.
(Fashion East, The spectre that haunted socialism, Djurdja Bartlett, p.11)