Long-time readers will know that we are mushroom fanatics. We've covered how fungi can help create healthier, drought-resistant gardens, create living 3D printed furniture, insulate our homes, and just generally save the world.
Some designers are also experimenting with the incorporation of fungi into architecture, creating strong, lightweight, fire- and water-resistant structures -- "mycotecture" if you will. We see over at Dezeen the work of Brunel University student Aleksi Vesaluoma in developing a eco-friendly, fungi-based building material, shaped into long tubes and cultivated into structural forms.
Vesaluoma, who collaborated with London architecture firm Astudio on the Grown Structures project, used a technique where cardboard is mixed with mycelium -- the part of the fungus that branches out with thread-like extensions -- to create what he calls "mushroom sausages." These long, tube-like forms were shaped using cotton bandages, strung over a mold, and allowed to grow for a month inside a greenhouse. As they grow over time, the structure's tubes are eventually "bound together like glue."
In addition, the fungi that grows out of the structure could be harvested and consumed as edibles. Vesaluoma imagines that this kind of structure could be used for biodegradable buildings for festivals, or a unique pop-up eatery where mushrooms are a key ingredient. Vesaluoma also points out that experiments like this could point the way to a zero-waste way of building:
Exploring the structural potentials of mycelium materials could help in shaping a future where architecture is grown from bottom-up rather than consuming resources and creating waste.
Mycelium materials are beneficial to us and the environment as well as just being really cool. They're another great example of why we need to trust the intelligence of nature in helping us create more regenerative systems of manufacture.
Getting such a material to gain mainstream acceptance might be difficult, as people might have preconceived notions about what fungi can do. "Right now the main factors holding back the mass-commercialisation of mycelium materials are people’s pre-assumptions, as well as the power of the profit-driven materials industry," says Vesaluoma.
Vesaluoma will continue to explore and refine the technique; he's since joined other free-thinking creatives to start up an interdisciplinary design collective called Mandin. In addition to working on mushroom-based solutions, the collective is now working on making objects out of orange peels and recycling waste plastic into skateboard decks.