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Knitting Chain-Link Fencing Into a Work of Art

A design team in Rotterdam has a creative solution to scenery-marring construction fences.


Fences aren't meant to be looked at. They exist to block off something from view or from access, such as a building site or your ugly recycling bins.

A team of Dutch designers is challenging that notion, however. With Lace Fence, brothers Joep and Jeroen Verhoeven and Judith de Graauw – members of the Rotterdam-based design collective DEMAKERSVAN – aim to haul the ordinary chain-link fence up into the airy realm of Art. And they're doing a decent job at it, too. Look at this noble King of the Jungle executed in galvanized-steel wire:

Haha! OK, that wasn't the best example. But there are tasteful versions of the Lace Fence, and companies and cities are buying them. Philadelphia University's Design Center has erected a fence of flowing flowers, for instance, and the Netherlands town of Uithoorn put a lacy "Dragonfly Bridge" over a river, with woven sides that recall the veined wings of insects. (Check out the Lace Fence website for more site-specific examples.) A swatch of knitted fence is even resting in the vault of Paris' Centre Pompidou museum.

The company has sales teams in every continent save for Africa and Antarctica, so expect to see a twee, knitted barrier popping up somewhere near you, like it fell off the Etsy truck. The makers of the twisted fencing haven't said a lot about how exactly they fabricate it, so I have no clue whether a robot is churning it out or the Verhoeven bros have a stichin' grandma with really strong fingers. But they have clarified the artistic vision behind the unorthodox links, writing on the DEMAKERSVAN site:

Industrial production is for us a big source of inspiration. The Big Miracle of how some products come about is a beautiful phenomenon if you look at it closely. In our projects we often combine the sensitive and the small with the powerful, large and industrial.

The Lace Fence project translates that line of thinking. Fencing is a sign how we modified and cultivated our environment. Like brambles fences are rising rampantly around us. What would happen if a patch of embroided wire would meet with and continue as an industrial fence. Hostility versus kindness, industrial versus craft.

Lace Fence: Just another example of how Rotterdam's urban landscape is so much cooler than your city's.

All images courtesy of Lace Fence.

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.