Botanical Garden Hosts Giant Birds Nest Built With Natural Fiber, Digital Tools
23 May 2017
by Kathleen Maclay
(image: (l to r) Hao Zheng, Kevin Rober, Yuxu Han, Xiyan Ni, Lerena Zhao, Assoc. Professor M. Paz Gutierrez, Yuanfang Lu and Taewook Kang)
Graduate architecture students in a class led by UC Berkeley associate professor of architecture M. Paz Gutierrez have worked over the academic year to create a stunning brown orb made of all natural materials that is currently hanging in the Botanical Garden’s conference center through Thursday, May 25th.
Plant Fiber Enclosure: Origins is a simple name for a complex object. It weighs about 20 pounds and features 400 woven pieces of varying sizes and designs inspired by the lightweight weaver bird’s nest, known to be the most elaborate of any bird, with intricate curvatures as well as superior insulation, acoustics and strength.
The students did a 3D scan of weaver bird nests to discern patterns of looping and netting construction design principles to produce a model and associated algorithms. Then they re-engineered a 3D printer to use hemp and wood waste instead of plastics or liquids, and installed robotic weaving “arms” on the printer programmed to thread the hemp fibers just so.
“It’s gorgeous,” said Botanical Garden director Eric Siegel.
Gutierrez, whose work focuses on developing radically new, sustainable building technologies and connecting them with traditional construction and fabrication, stresses that the installation is much more than a copy of a natural object. She feels it offers a means to learn more about the construction processes and the material and social dynamics of nest building. She said it also is a step toward understanding more about how traditional and sustainable construction can be adapted to accommodate the demands, limited resources, changing climates and emerging digital technologies of the modern world.