Architects and scientists create a living bird’s nest
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Architects and scientists create a living bird’s nest

Israeli team, including Nobel Prize winning chemist Dan Shechtman, builds 'Life Object,' a cooperative installation for Italian exhibition

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Setting up 'Life Object,' the living, breathing birds' nest created by a team of Israeli scientists and architects for the May 2016 International Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy (Courtesy LifeObject team)
Setting up 'Life Object,' the living, breathing birds' nest created by a team of Israeli scientists and architects for the May 2016 International Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy (Courtesy LifeObject team)

There’s science in architecture, but it’s rare that the practitioners work together, melding their disciplines to create something new.

At Italy’s 15th International Architecture Exhibition — La Biennale di Venezia, a group of Israeli scientists and architects, including Nobel Prize-winning chemistry professor Dan Shechtman, have created “Life Object: Merging Architecture and Biology,” a large-scale structure inspired by a 3D scan of a bird’s nest.

It’s an “experimental” idea that was “brave or crazy,” said Arielle Blonder, one of the participating architects who has been working since last August with her fellow team of scientists and architects on the project.

It’s a large team, with five curators including Blonder, Ido Bachelet, Bnaya Bauer, Yael Eylat Van-Essen and Noy Lazarevich. The team of scientists and architects are Dan Shechtman, Einat Kalisch Rotem, Ronit Satchi-Fainaro, Tagit Klimor, David Elad, Moti Bodek and Farah Farah, Uri Shavit, Boaz Tadmor and Dan Eytan, Ruth Lahav, Oded Soseyov, Guy Austern, Erez Livneh and ShaGa Shyovitz.

This isn’t your standard bird’s nest, either, but rather a free-standing living sculpture made of composite, smart and biological materials that responds to its environment. The idea behind it embodies the Israeli experience, as it is meant to examine the concept of resilience, looking at biological systems and their ability to cope with trauma or shock, basic elements of Israeli life and society.

A closer look at one of the 'live' elements of the May 2016 Biennale bird's nest (Courtesy LifeObject team)
A closer look at one of the ‘live’ elements of the May 2016 Biennale bird’s nest (Courtesy LifeObject team)

The Israeli team aimed for a new kind of collaboration that would bring scientific research to architectural rendering and then, the final product, said Blonder.

Each member of the team brought their own, prior research and experience creating a final product that is close in concept to what they envisioned, she explained, although the actual shape is quite different than what they planned.

A look at the LifeObject 'nest,' as it will appear at the May 26, 2016 International Architectural Biennale in Venice, Italy (Courtesy LifeObject team)
A look at the LifeObject ‘nest,’ as it will appear at the May 26, 2016 International Architectural Biennale in Venice, Italy (Courtesy LifeObject team)

“When you design something, you have it in your mind and then you render it, and it becomes material as you build it,” she said, speaking on the phone from Venice, where the exhibition is taking place. “It’s always very close and very far from what you imagined.”

For the team, there was the success in having produced LifeObject, but there was also the complicated process of learning each other’s languages and habits and time scale, said Blonder.

Blonder worked in the Technion lab of Professor Oded Shosayov, and recalled becoming frustrated when her idea didn’t work after two days of lab work.

“I was working with a post-doc student of his, and when I didn’t manage to succeed on the second day I was so frustrated,” she said. “She said, ‘Are you kidding me? I’ve been doing this for a year.’ For us in design, the rate of progress is so different, so we’ve learned to adjust to a different time frame, and a different rate of ideas and resources.”

For the Israeli group of architects and scientists, the process of collaboration was equally challenging as the project itself. Blonder called it a kind of matchmaking agency.

“We went way out on a limb, and maybe that’s the theme of the Israeli presentation in the pavilion,” she said. “If you want it to be done, it will be done. It’s the startup spirit.”

Another look at a fragment of the Life Object installation, created for the International Architecture Biennale in Italy, held on May 26, 2016 (Courtesy Life Object team)
Another look at a fragment of the Life Object installation, created for the International Architecture Exhibition in Italy, opening on May 26, 2016 (Courtesy Life Object team)

Their hope is that the project, which opens in Venice on Thursday, May 26 and will remain open until November, is only the start of a longer-lasting project, with ongoing research, conferences and discoveries, as well as the presentation of the exhibit in Israel as well.

“We want it to be much larger than this exhibition,” she said. “It’s about infusing architecture with scientific materials. Israeli science goes beyond Israeli architecture in terms of standards and attention and I would like architecture to align with that.”

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