“Silk Pavilion” by Mediated Matter / MIT Media Lab (2013)
Silk Pavilion was an architectural experiment conducted with 6,500 live silkworms. Mediated Matter led by Neri Oxman, studied productivity in nature in conjunction with computerized efficiency in fabrication. I admire how the group found an intersection across the artificial and natural, and was able to effectively apply fabrication understanding across such a large scaled dome installation. What’s also really admirable is how Oxman decided to develop custom CAD tools for the project, specifying specific thread properties of the pavilion that couldn’t have been altered elsewhere.
Using an algorithm inspired by the silkworm’s natural ability to create cocoons out of thread, the system assigns single threads across patches with varying density levels. Silkworms were then physically deployed as a real-time “3D printer”. The final form was not fully controlled by the creators, as the texture and features of the dome were difficult to predict due to the emergent behavior of the worms. Through deep understanding of silkworms as a medium, the group learned how to utilize them as a sophisticated, multi-axis printing medium.