Silk Pavilion: A Case Study in Fiber-based Digital Fabrication

2014 Oxman, N., Laucks, J., Kayser, M., Duro-Royo, J., Gonzales-Uribe, C., FABRICATE Conference Proceedings, Fabio Gramazio, Matthias Kohler, Silke Lanenber (eds.) ta Verla, Pp. 248-255


The Silk Pavilion explores the relationship between digital and biological fibre-based fabrication on an architectural scale. Its primary structure is comprised of 26 silk-threaded polygonal panels laid down by a CNC (Computerised Numerical Control) machine. Inspired by the silkworm’s ability to generate a 3D cocoon out of a single multi-property silk filament, the Pavilion’s overall geometry was created using an algorithm that assigns a single continuous thread across patches, providing functional density gradients informed by environmental constraints such as light and heat. Overall density variation was informed by deploying the Bombyx mori silkworm as a biological multi-axis multi-material 3D ‘printer’ in the creation of a secondary fibre structure. 6500 silkworms were positioned on the scaffold spinning flat non-woven silk patches to locally reinforce the CNC-deposited silk structure. The paper provides a review of basic research into the silkworm’s spinning behaviour, material and structural characterisation, computational simulation and fabrication strategy devised for the full-scale construction of the Pavilion. Potential applications for large-scale fibre-based digital fabrications that involve biological fabrication conclude the paper.

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