Friday, 4 January 2013

The Viñoly Beret

The firstsite building, a contemporary art gallery and community education space in Colchester, Essex, opened in September 2011.

The firstsite building

The curves and diagonally pleated panels of the building have inspired me to design the Viñoly Beret - a modular, ridged hat knitted on two needles and with a picked up brim.

© Dan Walmsley for
Practical Publishing

The hat in the magazine is knitted in Colinette Art (how appropriate is that!), but I've also since knitted up the design in Rowan Silk Twist (sadly discontinued, but still available in some LYSs) and in Lang Yarns Mille Colori, and it looks great in all three. You could use any aran-weight yarn - as long as stocking stitch knits to 18 sts and 24 rows to 10cm using 5mm needles.

The Viñoly Beret
knitted in Rowan Silk Twist

So, why Viñoly? 
"My design philosophy is rooted in the development of architectural ideas that are powerful, distinctive, and relevant to the specifics of both program and context."
Rafael Viñoly
Originally from Uruguay, the architect Rafael Viñoly won the competition to design a new contemporary art space in Colchester. The brief was to provide a building that could also be used as an educational facility and importantly would not damage the ground on which it was built - Colchester has a rich archeology, and a Roman mosaic found on the site has been reinstalled as the only permanent exhibit. (For anyone that's more interested in the Berryfield mosaic than the beret, this series of videos shows the conservation process and installation into its new home.)

Abstract shots of the building

The instructions to knit the beret are published in this month's Knit Now magazine, due in shops on the 10th January, and not only that ... I've also written all about where I got the idea from and how I worked out the geometry of the knitting, illustrated with pages of my sketchbook. A bit of a peep inside my design mind. 

If you'd like a peep into Viñoly's mind too, he discusses his work here.

For details of current exhibitions and events at firstsite visit or take a tour of the building with RVA Project Architect Julin Kinal at

Knit Now magazine can be bought from all good newsagents and most supermarkets, or online direct from the publisher here.