Mycotecture: Building with Mushrooms? This Inventor Says Yes

© Philip Ross

It should be no secret that mushrooms are incredible organisms -- they are edible, they can bio-remediate toxins, but did you know that they can also be used as an organic building material?

Mycologists have worked long and hard to dispel so-called "fungi-phobia," and inventor-artist Philip Ross is another visionary soul who has dedicated his life to mushrooms -- specifically quick-growing mycelia -- cultivating, drying and developing them as a potential building material which, says Inhabitat, "makes it stronger, pound for pound, than concrete."

© Philip Ross
© Philip Ross

Mycelium make up the thread-like network below ground, connecting the so-called "fruiting bodies" of the mushrooms that are visible above ground, allowing them to absorb nutrients and are vital for decomposition of organic matter. Mycelia is what Ross cultivates and dries into forms that are incredibly lightweight and surprisingly resistant to fire, mold and water.

To get an idea of what this material can do, check out one of Ross' recent installations "Mycotecture," which was grown out of Ganoderma lucidum (or Reishi) cultures that were formed into bricks and stacked into an arch. In addition, protective finishes can be applied to the mushroom bricks as well.

© Philip Ross
© Philip Ross
© Philip Ross
© Philip Ross

At the exhibition, visitors were treated to a tea made out of pieces of the arch (how often can we say that about bricks?).

© Philip Ross

Ross hopes to further develop the Mycotecture project by growing an entire building for 12 to 20 people out of more complex forms of myco-material. He explains in a recent interview that these mushroom-derived materials

... [have] the potential to be a substitute for many petroleum-based plastics. It’s left the art world and seems to have entered a Science Fiction novel or something like that. With this stuff it’s possible to go into regional production of biomaterials. For instance, here in San Francisco, we could start producing lots of local materials using this fungus and could create a pilot project of sorts.

© Philip Ross

This has exciting future implications for green building -- instead of cutting down, quarrying, hauling and processing building materials, one could have the option of growing them from scratch -- and even eating them later. What can't the humble mushroom do? More fascinating projects over at Philip Ross' website.

Tags: Architecture | Green Building

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