Silk Pavilion – MIT Media Lab
Director of Project – Neri Oxman
Team Members: Markus Kayser, Jorge Duro-Royo, Jared Lauks
The silk pavilion is a very intriguing (slightly disgusting) project, not simply because of its computational fabrication, but its connection to biology. The research carried out by the group focused on the integration of computational form finding techniques with biologically inspired formations. Inspired by the way silk worms weave delicate cocoons, the pavilion was created using a base of robot-woven threads wrapping a steel frame. Ultimately, the structure was completed by unleashing 6500 live silkworms onto the primary structure. Before the primary structure was built, the team involved with the project delved into some painstaking research, into the silkworm’s interaction with their environment, and methods of weaving their cocoons. This involved observing them in a variety of 3D spaces under different ambient conditions to utilizing motion tracking equipment to examine the construction process. The patterns computed by tracking the silk worms directly influenced the path the CNC mill would take when fabricated the primary structure. The pavilion’s overall geometry was created using an algorithm that assigns a single continuous thread across patches, providing various degrees of density
I really admire this project, because of the bio-mimicry involved. The project is one that truly encompasses the ideas of information technology and biology. We see the geometric frames used, alongside a technologically interpreted natural process. Both species involved with the project have a voice, but its intriguing how seamless they are. The researchers’ eve observed that the “blind instinct of the silk worm is sometimes almost machine-like”. I see projects like this becoming influential in a conversation about what art, architecture, and design can become in the future, by considering how natural order, and processes can inform our design decisions.