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Mycelium in architecture

As the use of mycelium in construction becomes more widespread, it will be interesting to see how architects and designers incorporate this material into their projects. Explore the potential for using mycelium in large-scale projects such as skyscrapers or airports, and consider the potential for mycelium to revolutionize the way we think about building materials.

Pavilion grown from mycelium

Image by Oscar Vinck

Pascal Leboucq, a set designer and artist, and Erik Klarenbeek’s studio, Krown Design, designed the Growing Pavilion. It’s a temporary events space at Dutch Design Week that’s constructed with mushroom mycelium panels on a timber frame. Biobased Creations, an Amsterdam studio, made the pavilion entirely from bio-based materials.

Circular Garden

Hy-Fi Pavilion Image © Andrew Nunes

Carlo Ratti Associati, in collaboration with Eni, developed an architectural structure made of mushrooms. It was revealed at Milan Design Week and called the “Circular Garden.” The garden is a series of arches made of one kilometer of mycelium that was grown by injecting spores into organic material. This pavilion is more sustainable because, after the exhibition, the mushrooms, ropes, and shredded wood chips are returned to the ground. The Shell Mycelium Pavilion, a collaboration between BEETLES 3.3 and Yassin Areddia Designs, also demonstrates eco-conscious design through temporary structures. They covered a wooden structure with coconut marrow that contained fungus. After a few days, the mycelium grew and formed a snow cover over the structure. The upper layer then died and hardened due to sunlight, forming a shell and protecting the lower layers.

Concepts of Mycelium Architecture

Advantages of mycelium as a construction material

Biodegradability

Mycelium serves as an eco-friendly construction material as it is 100% biodegradable. This feature allows for the easy erection and demolition of temporary structures and installations based on usage requirements, minimizing environmental impact.

Superior Thermal Properties

Mycelium tissue possesses excellent heat-trapping capabilities, outperforming fiberglass insulation. Additionally, mycelium is fireproof and non-toxic, making it a safe choice for construction applications.

Strength-to-Weight Ratio

When dried, mycelium exhibits increased porosity, resulting in a lighter material. However, pound for pound, it remains stronger than concrete. This strength-to-weight advantage makes mycelium a viable alternative in construction projects.

Fast and Cost-Effective Production

Mycelium production is characterized by its efficiency and low cost. The process is rapid, allowing for swift manufacturing of the material. This aspect contributes to its affordability and accessibility as a construction resource.

Self-Bonding Properties

Mycelium eliminates or minimizes the need for additional bonding materials. When two mycelium bricks are placed together, they rapidly intermingle and form a natural bonding connection, simplifying the construction process.

Decent Lifespan

With proper maintenance in favorable and stable conditions, mycelium bricks can have a lifespan of approximately 20 years. This durability ensures a reasonable service life for constructed structures.

Drawbacks of Mycelium as a construction material

Diminished Water Resistance

One of the disadvantages of using mycelium as a construction material is it’s decreasing ability to resist water over time. This makes mycelium bricks more susceptible to issues such as mold growth and humidity as they age.

Unsuitability for Long-Term Structures

Due to its reduced resistance to water, humidity, and mold, mycelium bricks are not suitable for long-term structures. Their vulnerability to these factors limits their durability and longevity.

Lack of Coating Requirement

Under normal climatic conditions, mycelium bricks typically do not require coating. However, they exhibit expansion, contraction, and relaxation based on weather conditions. When in direct contact with the ground, moisture absorption occurs, which compromises the efficiency of the mycelium bricks.