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Cité Internationale de la Dentelle et de la Mode
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Cité Internationale de la Dentelle et de la Mode
Loom demonstration room
Work Type
industrial museums
Image: May 13, 2019
135 Quai de Commerce, 62100 Calais, France
Calais, Pas-de-Calais, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France
Latitude: 50.95 N
Longitude: 1.859 E
Brick, glass, iron, steel
Nineteenth-century industrial, contemporary
This space within the museum shows several examples of massive, contemporary electric Jacquard looms used in the manufacture of machine lace.
Commentary: At the Cité Internationale de la Dentelle et de la Mode (the Museum of Lace and Fashion, or Cité Dentelle Mode for short) in Calais, France, the play of seen/unseen and known/unknown is at the heart of the building’s architectural conceit. Given the design brief to create a lace museum out of a former lace factory, it would have been easy to tack some predictable lacy pattern to the skin of the exterior. Instead, architects Henri Rivière et Alain Moatti identified the revolutionary weaving technology behind industrially manufactured lace as the raison d’être of their 2006-9 renovation and expansion of the historic Boulart lace factory. Up until the early nineteenth century, woven patterns had to be created by artisanal weavers, who manually managed the shifting of warp threads on a loom back and forth to create the desired effect. This changed with the invention of the Jacquard loom in 1804 by Joseph Marie Jacquard. This revolutionary loom uses a series of punch cards to organize information about how the warp threads of the loom should be organized, in order to produce a specific woven pattern. These punch cards work on the understanding that an artistic design can be converted, in contemporary parlance, into 0s and 1s. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Jacquard loom’s cards are the direct predecessor of early computer punch cards, which worked on precisely the same principle. Notably, in weaving, as in computer programming, the punch cards are highly abstracted information—they aren’t legible until they’ve been read by the machine. In other words, the pattern of holes on a loom punchcard doesn’t necessarily resemble the final woven pattern. Yet, the creation of punchcards is a necessary a byproduct of Jacquard weaving, and they constitute material artifacts that are aesthetically and technologically compelling in their own right. While these punchcards started out relatively simple, the ones created for manufacturing lace on modern looms often manage hundreds of warp threads, and are correspondingly complex. So rather than celebrating the end product of this weaving process, that is, the lace itself, Moatti and Rivière elevated the Jacquard punchcard as the primary architectural motif. The facade of the addition, a structure that houses the lobby and gift shop, along with some exhibition space, features an undulating skin whose perforations recall punchcard holes. The association continues on the interior, where the lobby is sheathed in a shimmering chainmail-like covering. Look closely and the resemblance to the punchcards again becomes apparent. The scenography of the interior, designed by the Pascal Payeur workshop, continues the visual play of partial visibility and punctured surfaces. The portion of the museum set in the reused nineteenth-century Boulart factory keeps the original architecture largely intact, while adding visual effects, such as multi-colored windows that again make homage to the Jacquard punchcards. Actual lace motifs appear as well, for while the punchcards and the finished product are not mimetic reflections of one another, they share a congruent aesthetic of semi-opacity and perforation. (Commentary excerpted from an SAH Brooks Fellowship Blog post written by the author, accessible at
Contributor: Sarah Rovang
Information: “The Boulart Factory,” Cité Dentelle Mode Calais, accessed May 29, 2019,; “Cité internationale de la dentelle et de la mode, Calais,” Moatti-Rivière Architecture et Scénographie, accessed June 22,
Photographer: Sarah Rovang
Sarah Rovang, 2019
Use of this image is in accordance with the Artstor Terms & Conditions
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