Neri Oxman: Material Ecology

Neri Oxman and The Mediated Matter Group. Silk Pavilion II. 2019. Courtesy Neri Oxman and The Mediated Matter Group

Neri Oxman. Silk Pavilion 123

Neri Oxman: What's so special about the silk cocoon from a performative standpoint—structural performance and environmental performance—is that the silkworm varies the composition of the chemical elements that make up the silk. There are just two of them, sericin and fibroin. The sericin is the matrix, the glue, and the fibroin is the fiber that defines or gives the structure its structural stability and orientation.

The silkworm as it goes about spinning its cocoon over a period of 24 to 72 hours varies the property of this one-kilometer long endless silk fiber filament to create a wall, you know—an exterior that is stiff—and an interior that is soft enough for it to metamorphosize.

And what was so special about this process is that it allowed co-fabrication, human and silkworms, but also cohabitation—human and silkworms—and it allowed us to challenge the way silkworms are treated in the industry. The cocoons are usually boiled, the silkworms die away. And in this case, the silkworm goes through this endless cycle whereby it spins the silk, it pupates, it metamorphosizes during the process without the need to boil a single cocoon. It is in my mind a vision for cohabitation where the single-family house is not human-centric but is nature-centric. Humans, organisms, materials, the environment, they're all appropriated and referred to in synergy and harmony. They're all part of the design process.

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