Movie captures making of Neri Oxman pavilion spun by 17,532 silkworms

Neri Oxman has released a new movie documenting the creation of the silkworm-woven pavilion in Italy, in which the insects “act not only as construction workers but also as designer”.

The American-Israeli designer created the 7.32-minute-long movie for a website launched to digitally present the projects on show at Material Ecology exhibition, which closed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The film, shown here in a series of short clips, captures for the first time the making of the Silk Pavilion II, a centrepiece of the New York showcase.

It begins with the facility in Teolo, Italy, where 17,532 silkworms were sourced for the project, and then moves onto the installation of a large robotic, loom-like jig in a fabrication facility in Abano Term, Italy, where the silkworm-spun pavilion was made in 10 days.

After the jig is built, a soluble white knit is stretched across to form a base for the silkworms to lay their silk. The kinetic jig was programmed to periodically rotate in a clockwise motion so that the silkworms are forced to work in an upward spinning motion and lay evenly over the structure.

This process provides an alternative to traditional harvesting of material from silkworms, in which the larva are killed. 

“As the Silk Pavilion demonstrates, structures can influence silkworms to spin in sheets instead of cocoons,” said Oxman.

“This project illustrates how this small, yet unique insect can act not only as construction worker but also as designer, in collaboration with a man-made structure that guides its movement and deposition of silk to create an enhanced form.”

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