Vespers II

Vespersii Web 00
3D printed death masks, series 2. Photo: Yoram Reshef

Hybrid living mask prototypes

Research team: Christoph Bader, Dominik Kolb, James C. Weaver. Prof. Neri Oxman.

Year: 2018

Location: Design Museum, 2016, London, United Kingdom. National Gallery of Victoria, 2018, Melbourne, Australia

Platform: Data Driven Material Modeling

The internal structures reference the distribution of the martyr’s last breath.


The custom of the death mask in the ancient world was believed to strengthen the spirit of the deceased and guard their soul from evil spirits on their way to the afterword. In this view, death is a conduit to a form of rebirth. The mythical notion that the soul can be guided from a state of death to a new state of life inspired the design of the masks in the second series.

In Vespers II, it is the interplay of light that reveals these internal structures. Like spirits (from Latinspiritus, meaning “breath”), the internal structures reference the distribution of the martyr’s last breath.

Vespersii Web 07
Mask 02 Interplay of light revealed internal structures. Photo: Yoram Reshef
Vespersii Web 19
Mask 05 Internal structures referenced a martyr’s last breath. Photo: Yoram Reshef
Vespersii Web 15
Mask 04 Surface colors transformed into internal vasculature. Photo: Yoram Reshef


To create the Vespers masks, we developed a data-driven approach for the creation of high-resolution, geometrically complex, and materially heterogeneous 3D printed objects at product scale. Titled Data-driven Material Modeling (DdMM), this approach utilizes external and user-generated data-sets for the evaluation of heterogeneous material distributions during slice generation for 3D printing, thereby enabling the production of voxel-matrices describing material distributions for bitmap-printing at the printer’s native resolution.

The series utilizes our bitmap-slicing framework to inform material property distribution in concert with slice generation, in real time. In contrast to existing approaches occupying the intersection of computational design and additive manufacturing, this framework emphasizes the ability to integrate multiple geometry-based data sources to achieve high levels of control for applications in a wide variety of design scenarios.

Voxel (3D-pixel) volume in picoliters


Fat cell volume in picoliters

Vespersiii Ddmm Orb 03 Gray
Neurovascular structures in 3D printed orb
Vespersiii Ddmm Orb 04 Gray
Simulated turbulent flow in 3D printed orb
Vespersiii Ddmm Orb 01 Gray
Topography and flow lines in 3D printed orb
Vespersii Ddmm 3d Printing Transparency Demo Diagram
Transparency demonstrated on liquid diffusion and bone density
Vespersii Ddmm Polishing And Finishing Result
Demonstration of post processing on exterior and section cut

The inner structures of the Vespers masks are entirely data driven and are designed to match the resolution of structures found in nature. Expressed through changes in formal and material heterogeneity—from discontinuous to smooth, from surface to volume, from discrete to continuous —this series conveys the notion of metamorphosis.

Using spatial mapping algorithms, the culturally coded surface colorations and truncated geometries in the first series are transformed into colored, internal strands within transparent, smoothly curved volumes in the second. For example, the distribution of colors across the ‘crown of thorns’ mask in the first series becomes internal nerve axons in its martyr’s mask in the second series.

Vespersii Ddmm Tetragon To Layers Diagram
Transforming tetrahedral data into slices of voxel data
Vespersii Ddmm Mesh Translation To Voxels Diagram
Transforming colored mesh into voxel data


Vespers is a collection of masks exploring what it means to design (with) life. Vespers II marks the process of ‘metamorphosis’ between the ancient relic and its contemporaneous interpretation. Combined, the three series of the Vespers collection represent the transition from death to life, or from life to death, depending on one’s reading of the collection.

The microorganisms and their byproducts, which animate the mask with properties greater than the sum of its parts, reinterpret the color palette of the first series and thereby biologically recreate their cultural precursors. Thus the martyr’s faces are no longer preserved but have transformed into sites of and for new life.

14 Mask 4 Side
Mask 04 side view. Photo: Yoram Reshef
01 Mask 1 Front
Mask 03 front view. Photo: Yoram Reshef
09 Mask 3 Front
Vespers II Mask 01 front view. Photo: Yoram Reshef
18 Mask 5 Bottom
Vespers II Mask 05 closeup. Photo: Yoram Reshef
Vespersiii Mask 02 Closeup
Mask 01 Detail


Collaborators & Contributors: Gal Begun; Boris Belocon; Ahmed Hosny; Naomi Kaempfer; Danielle Van Zadelhoff; MIT Media Lab

Created in collaboration with Stratasys Ltd. for the New Ancient Collection

All images and videos courtesy of Neri Oxman and The Mediated Matter Group

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