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Fabrics create comfortable shelters

Case Studies, Exteriors | November 1, 2018 | By:

Visitors were encouraged to engage with this fabric structure and the accompanying apparel shown at Design Week Portland in April 2018. The designers sought to create a conversation about what it means to have shelter in an ever more urbanized, global world. Photos: Nick McFadden.

A group of designers at Bora Architects, a Portland, Ore., firm, had an interesting idea they wanted to explore. The group considered the way in which modern American life, with all its comforts, creates a barrier to the natural world. Increasingly, the buildings we inhabit no longer reflect the regional climates in which they exist, as light, humidity and temperature are carefully controlled. What we wear is less about necessity, because our built environment protects us.

The designers expanded upon this concept as they developed a project for Design Week Portland that included a fabric shelter and apparel. They wanted visitors to question the meaning of “comfort” by experiencing a shelter and clothing that responds to the elements rather than keeping them at bay. They looked to the role of fabric in camping for inspiration: It connects people to the experience through tents, sleeping bags and clothing, but leaves individuals open to the natural world.

Called “Comfortable? Fabric and the Threshold of Shelter,” the project brought together a team of architects, manufacturers and fashion/apparel designers. Using digital design methods along with a labor-intensive process of patterning, sewing and assembly, Bora developed a structural fabric shelter that offers protection while letting the natural world in. It was fabricated and assembled with the help of the craftspeople at The Good Mod. Rainier Industries performed the large-scale fabric slicing and pattern cutting.

Portland design firm Creative Capital Design worked in collaboration with designer Sonya Kasparian and FORM to design apparel that offered different levels of protection. For more information, visit

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