Wood Waste And Hemp Fiber Used In Weaver Bird Nest Sculpture

Hemp fiber nest sculpture
Image : University of California Berkeley

Science, engineering, anthropology, robotics and art – this giant 3D printed and 3D woven interpretation of a weaver bird nest made with hemp fiber and wood waste draws from all of these.

Described as an “intertwined physical, sociocultural, and aesthetic exploration”, the sculpture is currently on display at University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley.

Created over two semesters, “Plant Fiber Enclosure: Origins” weighs around 9 kilograms and is comprised of 400 woven pieces of varying sizes and designs.

To create the unique piece students first studied fabrication techniques with plant fibers originated in primitive habitats. A 3D scan of weaver bird nests mapped out patterns of looping and netting construction design principles, upon which a computer model and associated algorithm were developed. Then a 3D printer was reconfigured and robotic weaving arms added to use hemp fiber and wood waste to construct the sculpture.

The work was led by UC Berkeley associate professor of architecture Maria Paz Gutierrez, who said projects such as this are forging new understanding of how traditional and sustainable construction can be adapted to the modern world.

Professor Gutierrez founded a new interdisciplinary research initiative called BIOMS (Bio Input Onto Material Systems) nearly a decade ago, which amalgamates architecture and sciences to integrate principles of design and biophysics.

While the Berkeley team’s work looks to be a delicate piece, it’s likely to be quite strong as industrial hemp fiber is known for its robust nature – it’s one of the strongest natural fibres. You can learn more about hemp fiber production here.

Plant Fiber Enclosure: Origins is on display at the Garden’s Conference Center, but only until May 25. It’s not clear what will happen to the sculpture after that time.

Trivia : Weaver birds create elaborately woven nests said to be the most intricate of any birds. The social weavers of Africa build massive nests  up to 3 metres high and  4.5 metres across that cater to 100 to 300 breeding pairs; with each pair having their own entrance and chamber.