Upclose with Mycelia, the living material for Architecture and Design

Upclose with Mycelia, the living material for Architecture and Design

Growing materials or Living Materials, are our constantly renewable natural sources. Using nature directly provided for our use on construction, furniture and product design; displays high results on reducing the use of non-renewable resources, manufacturing contamination and waste. For now one of the most accurate living material is mycelia or mycelium, the vegetative part of fungi, which has the capacity of being molded into any shape replacing plastics, packaging styrofoam, gypsum panels and even used as an insulation material. Read more about Mycelium here.

IMG_7583Onwards, during my stay in New York City, we visited PS1’s most recent installation by David Benjamin (Founder of The Living). The project titled Hy-Fi Biodegradable Tower  (see renderings here), a temporary structure completely built out of mycelia and creatively turned into prismatic blocks in a shape of twisted chimneys. As this is an installation and typically every installation is ephemeral and has to be dismantled and discarded, this one will be returned to the environment and processed naturally by its contextual ecosystem. No waste, except for any metallic and woody elements added to support the structure which will be recycled.

Raw dry mycelia for resistance test

Raw dry mycelia for resistance test

At New Lab by Terreform One and OneLab, a talk provided by Melanie Fessel  who works for Terreform One, explained briefly the process of growing this material with the following Protocol or recipe:

Substrate Composition:
• 
4 parts of oak pellet fuel (wet)
• 1 part oat bran
• 5/4 parts H2o2 (hydrogen peroxide)
• 1/2 parts gypsum
• water

Procedure:
• Measure out dry pellet fuel into a large bowl of bucket. 400ml pellet fuel dry = about 1000ml wet.
• Pour boiling water onto pellet fuel until submerged.
• Allow pellets to absorb water before breaking up any pellets that are still solid.
• Add oat bran and gypsum, mix thoroughly.
• Autoclave substrate for 30 minutes.
• Remove from autoclave and allow to cool to room temperature.
From this point on use ONLY sterilized equipment in a sterile an environment as possible.
• Dilute H2o2 in about 3 times as much distilled water and add to substrate.
• Add distilled water in small increments, mixing after each addition, until substrate clumps easily but does not drip when squeezed. DO NOT OVER-HYDRATE.
• Inoculate by mixing well broken Reishi Mycelia that has grown for more than 7 days in a spawn jar of similar substrate (spawn substrate, as well as agar culture used to inoculate spawn, must include H2o2)
• Spoon into molds, compacting lightly.
• Incubate at 30 degrees Celsius in a humid environment until mycelium has fully colonized substrate.

Below you will find up close images of this living material and details on the Biodegradable Tower.

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Mabelle Plasencia

Founder and Editor at INmatteria©
• Architect | LEED AP BD+C, with an intense passion for materiality, innovation, technology and science. • Arquitecta | LEED AP BD+C apasionada por la materialidad, innovación, tecnología y ciencia.