MIT’s Media lab just unveiled a gorgeous Silk Pavilion made by 6,500 silkworms and a giant robotic arm! Designed by the Mediated Matter Research Group, the gauzy dome is made of non-woven silk spun by silkworms over 26 polygonal panels. The project fuses digital and biological fabrication, and it was inspired by the silkworm’s ability to spin a cocoon from a single thread.
A CNC machine created a series of polygonal panels to start the pavilion. The algorithm used by the CNC machine was based on the natural spinning patterns of silkworms. Once the dome’s shape was set, an army of silkworms was set loose to add a second, biologically produced layer to the structure. The density of the silk threads vary according to the whims of the 6,500 silkworms.
The pavilion’s transparency and geometrical density vary according to how the silkworms spun the exterior layer – the dome is thicker in some places and gauzy in others. Patterns formed where sunlight hit the structure, causing thicker concentrations of silk worms to flock to the heat provided by the sunbeams. The result is a gorgeous cloud-like dome that joins technology with biology.
Photos by Steven Keating