Bombix Bricks: Building with liquid silk

We at Materia have seen our fair share of unusual construction materials over the years, but silk is a new one. Architect Ilaria La Manna has great plans to use liquid silk, which she calls Bombix Bricks (the Latin name for silkworm is Bombyx mori), for architectural structures.

After making the liquid silk from cocoons (a rather complicated process which you can see in the movie below), it is put in a freeze-drying machine. There, a vacuum pump sucks out all the air, causing the silk to start bubbling before freezing into a solid shape. By putting the silk into a mould before freeze-drying it, the material takes that form. The result is a sponge-like material that is slightly translucent.

For now, the Bombix Bricks have only been made in handy sizes, but La Manna has much bigger plans. She aims to make large architectural structures with the same technique. It would reduce the amount of materials and machines on site, and the material would grow to the right shape itself. As one of the photos shows, the construction could even be made on Mars.

Of course, the material can hardly be used as construction material for houses, but would make for interesting temporary, artful installations. After a certain amount of time, the morphology of the material turns back to its original liquid form and can be used again for a new project.

Photos via Designboom


  1. Irena Romendik says:

    I think this technology has a high potential for abuse: how can big scale production of protein fiber be sustainable, and not only for humans. How many silk worms it would take to supply raw materials for a building?