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Pavilion   
2019–2020
Cambridge, MA + Abano Terme, IT + New York, NY

“Digital Image © 2020 The Museum of Modern Art, New York.” Photographed by Denis Doorly
Commissioned for the exhibition Neri Oxman: Material Ecology︎ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2020, Silk Pavilion II stands at six meters tall and five meters wide. Building on research developed for Silk Pavilion I ︎, this successor project tackled challenges associated with scale and sericulture.
The project utilizes an integrated kinetic mandrel designed to guide the natural spinning motion of the silkworms through clockwise rotation, fusing technology and biology to unite the woven and the spun.

Realized as part of research project conducted in the Mediated Matter Group at MIT Media Lab ︎

Research Team ︎
João Costa, Christoph Bader︎ , Sunanda Sharma︎, Felix Kraemer︎, Susan Williams︎Jean Disset︎ and Neri Oxman ︎ Undergraduate researcher: Sara Wilson 

Contributors ︎
Davide Biasetto, Il Brolo Società Agricola SRL, Padua; Levi Cai; Silvia Cappellozza and Alessio Saviane, Council for Agricultural Research and Agricultural Economics Analysis (CREA-AA), Bologna; Natalia Casas; Kelly Egorova; Fiorenzo Omenetto, Tufts University; Sol Schade, Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA); James Weaver, Wyss Institute, Harvard University; Nitzan Zilberman; Bodino; Front Inc.; MIT Media Lab

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In a departure from Silk Pavilion I, this structure is comprised of three interrelated layers. Its innermost primary structure is made of one-dimensional, braided steel wire ropes, while the secondary structure is a two-dimensional knit fabric onto which silkworms are positioned. The outermost layer is a three-dimensional structure biologically spun with the help of some 17,000 silkworms sourced in the Veneto region of Italy where the tradition of sericulture and silk manufacturing has been a part of its history since 12th century Renaissance.

Over the course of 10 days, the silkworms spun horizontally across the base structures. As they progressed, a rotating mechanism guided their spinning motions upwards. The resulting density of the silk layer–influenced by change in light and heat–varies across the structure. The holes in the knit layer, created as a result of the interaction with silkworm excrement, are strategically placed to release tensile stress.


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A scanning mechanism was set up in order to allow for tracking of structural changes over the course of production. The system encompasses a Lidar scanner working in tandem with a rotary encoder and prepared DC motor to create a point cloud data.




As the traditional process of harvesting silk from the cocoon kills the larva, sericulture has been criticized by animal welfare and rights activists. In the textile and silk industry today, silkworms are exterminated while in their cocoon, dissolving the adhesive that glues one strand of silk to the layers below. This process allows a single silk strand to be unrolled from the cocoon but disrupts the life cycle and development of the organism. As the Silk Pavilion demonstrates, structures can influence silkworms to spin in sheets instead of cocoons. 

The project illustrates how these compact and unique insects can act not only as living looms but as co-designers uniting with humans to design and construct architectural-scale structures embodying co-fabrication for cohabitation.


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Tools    
2017 –
Cambridge, MA

Realized as part of research conducted in the Mediated Matter Group at MIT Media Lab ︎

Along the research process that culminated with the Silk Pavilion, various tools were designed and produced. Each had to perform a different task to work with fabrication systems and the silkworms. 

Here is a selection of these tools.

Research Team ︎
João Costa, Christoph Bader︎ , Sunanda Sharma︎, Felix Kraemer︎, Susan Williams︎, Jean Disset︎ and Neri Oxman ︎
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End Effectors for thread deposition ︎

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Studies    
2017 –
Cambridge, MA

Realized as part of research conducted in the Mediated Matter Group at MIT Media Lab ︎

A selection of studies done for the development of the Silk Pavilion. These include processes and investigative experiments that look into new forms of fabricating thread-based structures and the required mechanisms. 

Research Team ︎
João Costa, Christoph Bader︎ , Sunanda Sharma︎, Felix Kraemer︎, Susan Williams︎, Jean Disset︎ and Neri Oxman ︎
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Frames constructed for the Broken Nature exhibition at the Trienale di Milano in 2019. Thread was deposited by a CNC machine including custom tools and controls.

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Experiments with the Bombyx mori silkworm looking into different stimuli and their effect on the deposition of silk and construction of the cocoon structure.

6”x6”x6” CUBES



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Investigation of three-dimensional thread-based structures. Here are some models that present different distribution of density within structures constrained by the boundaries of a cube.
The structures were built by a robotic arm and a CNC machine and consisted of a single silk thread. The toolpath and tools for achieving these results were all part of the research process and can be seen in the figures.

FIBER DENSITY DISTRIBUTION

by Christoph Bader
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1.5mx1.5mx1.5m 
Gantry
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Bees
2018
Cambridge, MA
Realized as part of research project conducted in the Mediated Matter Group at MIT Media Lab ︎

This experiment is part of an ongoing research with honeybees to better understand how they react to different stimuli and environments by challenging the traditional structure of the Langstroth hive.

The setup consists of a polycarbonate cube with a prepared motor rensponsible for rotating a main axis that serves as support for the honeybees to deposit wax and construct their honeycombs. Along a period of approximately one month, the axis was periodically rotated causing the bees to modify their structure and adapt to the new settings of their enclosure.

A camera recorded the behavior and movement of the bees while a rotary encoder stored the history of the angles in which the axis was stopped at. Further interpration and analysis of the data is still undergoing.

Research Team ︎
João Costa, Ren Ri , Jean Disset︎, Christoph Bader ︎ and Neri Oxman ︎
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Camera feed ︎

360 Scan ︎︎

Z-Axis Scan ︎
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2020
Cambridge, MA