CLOU architects are showcasing a ‘Soft Blob’ made from stretched Mulberry silkworm cocoons at The China Suzhou Design & Cultural Expo.

A lightweight, shell surface is formed by layering sheets of hand-stretched silk cocoons while applying sticky-rice glue as a bonding agent. Using this variation of a traditional fabrication process, the surface of the blob can be seen as a contemporary display of the material’s beauty, while utilizing its exceptional material properties. Thus in this sense, the object can be interpreted as a mysterious creation of ‘incidental nature’.

Often described as a natural ‘metamaterial’, silk fibres are both biodegradable and highly crystalline. Furthermore the material is known for its well-aligned structure, a higher tensile strength than glass fibre, good elasticity and excellent resilience.

Silk fibres from silkworms have been used in textiles for over 5000 years and China has been at the centre of this practice for centuries. This tradition has been documented in The Archives of Suzhou Silk Samples which consists of 302,841 silk samples submitted to the UNESCO Memory of the World Library in 2016.

Silk cocoons made by 2 larvae are called double-cocoons and are used for duvets and pillows fillings in China. Both larvae start spinning the cocoon at the same time, which results in a larger-than-usual cocoon and intertwined filaments. These cocoons are not suitable for unwinding the filaments, however they are perfectly suitable for stretching it into a large batting material to form a quilt. Four workers secure raw dried silk on four sides and stretch it to the desired size of the duvet. In this way the silk is layered until the intended thickness is reached. This technique paired with sticky rice glue lends itself to creating a super thin, lightweight softshell-blob.

“All along we have been calling it a ‘dumb blob’ in order to focus on the essential material qualities and the elementary form we wanted to create,” says Christian Taeubert, Director of CLOU. While on display visitors have imagined the seven and a half meter tall object as a headless duck, a vegetable like a golden or white gourd, something like a pear, or some kind of alien object. The form was abstract enough just to leave enough room for interpretation.

Natural materials as a form of inspiration is not something new to architecture, however the Soft Blob is CLOU’s small contribution to harmonise both the natural and built world. It also serves as a reminder that some of the design problems we face have already been met and solved in nature itself.

Following the exhibition, the Soft Blob has found a new home in Suzhou Art & Design Technology Institute’s permanent collection of their art museum with the intention of being displayed in future exhibitions.

The four day long Suzhou Design & Cultural Expo had received 200.000 visitors this year.

CLOU建筑在中国苏州设创意计文化博览会上展出了采用拉伸的蚕丝制作的装置‘软壳’。

手工拉伸的蚕丝与粘合剂的结合呈现出一个轻盈,壳状的表皮形态。通过传统制造工艺的多变形式,展馆的表皮诠释了在天然状态下材料的魅力,同时充分发挥了材料自身的独特属性。在这种特定环境下,展馆被看做是‘伴随自然’的神秘创造。

丝绸纤维凭借其自身既可生物降解又呈现出晶莹剔透的材料属性,经常被称作天然的‘超材料’。与此同时,丝绸独特的均分布结构也被人熟知,拥有比玻璃纤维更强的延展性,良好的可塑性以及卓越的复原能力。

蚕丝纤维在纺织业已经拥有超过5000年的历史,并且苏州在过去几个世纪以来一直是该工业的核心所属。这种传统工艺也被收录在苏州丝绸样品档案里,包括 302,841种不同丝绸种类,在2016年被一同提交至世界文化遗产世界记忆图书馆。

由两只蚕共同创造出的蚕蛹被称作是双宫茧,被用作被子与枕头的填充物。两只蚕在同一时间转动,创造出一个更大的蚕蛹以及交织错落的组织。这种蚕蛹并不适用于将其拆解开来,但确是拉伸并拍打成为一面被子的完美材料。四位工人分别将干燥后的丝绸固定在四条边上并拉伸成被子所需的尺寸。丝绸在这种方式下层层叠加达到理想的厚度。这种工艺赋予我们创造一个超薄轻盈的壳状空间的灵感。

‘为了更好地将设计焦点集中在材质的特性和元素化的空间,我们在设计过程中一直称他为--蠢蠢的团子’ 柯路建筑董事Christian Taeubert说。市民在参观过程中给予了7.5米高的‘软壳’丰富的想象:像没有头的鸭子,像白色的葫芦、梨子,像天外来客。抽象的形体留给大众无限的阐释空间。

把自然作为灵感并不是建筑界的一个全新的理念,然而该展馆是CLOU对自然与工程环境和谐结合所做的贡献,同时提醒人们在设计中我们所面临到的问题可能已经在大自然里找到了属于它的答案。

展览结束后,软壳由苏州工艺美术职业技术学院美术馆永久收藏,并会在展览活动中继续展出。

今年为期4天的苏州创意设计文化产业博览会吸引了200,000参观人次。

Soft Blob

软壳