Page last updated at 18:29 GMT, Saturday, 7 March 2009

A vision made concrete

Freize

By Rosy Billingham
BBC News

For most people concrete conjures up images of a cold, grey and boring construction material but two women from Northern Ireland want to change your mind.

Textile designer, Trish Belford and architect, Ruth Morrow, have come up with an award-winning concrete idea called 'Girli Concrete' which blends rough and smooth materials.

"We like to encourage people to touch the pieces and feel them," designer," Trish Belford said.

Their current commission, a 7.5-metre-long frieze will be installed in the newly refurbished Derry Playhouse next week.

The frieze is made up of four undulating sections of concrete, out of which embroidered and fabric flowers and leaves seem to grow.

Trish Belford said the original features such as fireplaces and fanlights were copied from the Playhouse and incorporated in the design.

"We wanted to look at the indigenous industries of Ireland, the architecture, arts, crafts and textiles and put them together."

The textiles used were embedded or built into the concrete and some of them were woven with steel thread.

Freize

It has taken Trish Belford and Ruth Morrow three years to perfect their technique which they are keeping secret whilst they apply for a patent.

Apparently it is all down to the consistency of the concrete, which is poured into moulds over a period of weeks.

As a textile designer, Trish has worked with designers, Vivienne Westwood and Jasper Conran but this is the first time she's teamed up with an architect.

Both she and Ruth were keen to produce an innovative building material, bringing together the two Ulster traditions of construction and textiles.

"We have also created the 'Tactility Factory' to open ourselves up to the use of other hard and soft construction materials."

The design duo also want to test and develop the material in terms of its insulation and acoustic properties and are even looking at building textiles into exterior walls.

Trish said the unusual name 'Girli Concrete' came about from an off-the-cuff remark when a man walked into their studio and asked what they were doing up to their arms in concrete.

"Ruth just turned round to him and said- 'girly concrete, what does it look like!"

And since then it has stuck, Trish added: "some people love it and some people hate it, but at least they always remember it."

The is frieze is part of the Fabrication exhibition which runs until March 14 at Place on Fountain Street.

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