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the mycelium blocks

The use of mycelium exhibits stability through the collaboration of structural design and comparatively weaker regenerative components, in lieu of its bulkier, non-renewable counterparts. Picture by : Carlina Teteris

assembling the pieces

Although Mycelium sounds like the solution to our sustainability woes, as stated previously, the material is low on structural strength. Therefore it calls for a structural solution that could support the structure. Picture by : Sustainable Construction, KIT and BRG, ETH Zürich

mycelium moulds

Acting as compressive building blocks, these cultivated, biological elements can be biodegraded after use and their components returned as nutrients into the natural metabolism. Picture by : Carlina Teteris

cultivating the mycelium

Mushrooms grow on biodegradable substrates such as agricultural waste or saw dust. In a first step, these nutrients are packaged in bags and inoculated with mushroom hyphae. Picture by : Carlina Teteris

The design

Development of node mould through polyhedral geometry resulting in developable, fabrication-friendly surfaces, along with the assembly of the node mould and the compressing mechanisms. Picture by : Sustainable Construction, KIT and BRG, ETH Zürich

production of the moulds

In production, the content of the mushroom bags is then placed into parametrically generated, fabricated and reusable moulds for a second growth cycle. Picture by : Carlina Teteris

the polyhedral branched structure

The concepts of Funicular geometry – one that constitutes of low stresses – were explored in an attempt to produce these required results. Picture by : Carlina Teteris

The plan and section of MycoTree

Exhibition layout of Beyond Mining – Urban Growth and top view of MycoTree at the Seoul Biennale 2017. Picture by : Sustainable Construction, KIT and BRG, ETH Zürich

the final exhibit

MycoTree will be on display in Pavilion i7 at the Donuimun Museum Village from 01 September to 05 November 2017. Picture by : Carlina Teteris

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Lab 24 Oct 2017

Using Fungi: MycoTree, the experimental, recyclable, living and breathing material of the future

Heading towards a future of ubiquitous technology set in concrete jungles, we struggle to hold on to nature, and what’s left of it. But as our settlements expand, so does the debris we create, consequently causing our natural resources to shrink. Intending to build a more sustainable tomorrow, our only vote would be delve into investigating matter around us to fabricate “greener” materials that create negligible waste. Such is the foundation for MycoTree, the result of a collaboration between the architect Dirk Hebel and engineer Philippe Block.

MycoTree is a self-supporting, spatial branching structure that is made entirely out of load-bearing Mycelium components. Utilising only mycelium and bamboo, the structure demonstrates a vision of the future, moving away from the mining of building materials, to cultivating them. The use of mycelium exhibits stability through the collaboration of structural design and comparatively weaker regenerative components, in lieu of its bulkier, non-renewable counterparts. {video-1}}

Re-thinking Building Materials

When we talk of a city, it is mainly its architecture that paints its visual character. Architecture is composed of two preliminary components, the material and the design elements. As seen widely, although design elements often surprise us, the key building materials usually remain the same. The entire load of building civilization rests on a few, tried and tested, deemed 'strong' materials, thus depleting these materials at an astonishing pace. 

assembling the pieces

Although Mycelium sounds like the solution to our sustainability woes, as stated previously, the material is low on structural strength. Therefore it calls for a structural solution that could support the structure. Picture by : Sustainable Construction, KIT and BRG, ETH Zürich

the mycelium blocks

The use of mycelium exhibits stability through the collaboration of structural design and comparatively weaker regenerative components, in lieu of its bulkier, non-renewable counterparts. Picture by : Carlina Teteris

Additionally, our building materials currently run on the principle of 'produce, use and discard', which has been proven to be exceedingly unsustainable in the face of scarce resources and exponentially increasing urban population. This clearly substantiates  that 'future cities' cannot be built using the same resources as the existing ones.

The need for an era of sustainable building materials is a must. Dirk Hebel and Philippe Block decided to look at materials known for sustainability as opposed to physical strength, choosing to combine a regenerative material, with technology and structure to obtain stability. 

mycelium moulds

Acting as compressive building blocks, these cultivated, biological elements can be biodegraded after use and their components returned as nutrients into the natural metabolism. Picture by : Carlina Teteris

“MycoTree was conceived combining the knowledge of materials, construction, structures, and geometry, to address the problems posed by inefficiency in the realms of current materials for design use.”

Mycelium, an introduction

Mycelium is the root network of mushrooms, a fast growing matrix that can act as a natural glue. Not only does Mycelium’s dense network binds substrates, like sawdust or other plant-based waste products, into a structurally active material composite, it is also capable of disintegrating to compost after use. 

cultivating the mycelium

Mushrooms grow on biodegradable substrates such as agricultural waste or saw dust. In a first step, these nutrients are packaged in bags and inoculated with mushroom hyphae. Picture by : Carlina Teteris

The material is easily accessible since it can be grown locally, efficient and being organic, reverses carbon emission.

To initiate the growth process, the sterilized substrate is mixed with mycelium tissue. Over the course of days, the fungi digests and transforms the nutrients, growing into a dense, spongy substance of interlocking mycelium filaments. This mass can then be 'cast' into moulds. Left for another few days, the cast mycelium further densifies into its final shape, which can be then dried in order to stop the growth. 

production of the moulds

In production, the content of the mushroom bags is then placed into parametrically generated, fabricated and reusable moulds for a second growth cycle. Picture by : Carlina Teteris

Incorporating Structural Geometry

Although Mycelium sounds like the solution to our sustainability woes, as stated previously, the material is low on structural strength. Therefore it calls for a structural solution that could support the structure, specifically by introducing heavier compression to balance out the tension and the bending of the weaker material.

The concepts of Funicular geometry – one that constitutes of low stresses – were explored in an attempt to produce these required results. The geometry of the structure was designed via 3D graphic statics, using a polyhedral form as a means to achieve expressive structural forms. Polyhedral by construction, without the need for optimisation, the structure’s complex nodes could be materialised using developable surfaces, which can be cut from sheet material, making the process simple and effective. 

The design

Development of node mould through polyhedral geometry resulting in developable, fabrication-friendly surfaces, along with the assembly of the node mould and the compressing mechanisms. Picture by : Sustainable Construction, KIT and BRG, ETH Zürich

 
the polyhedral branched structure

The concepts of Funicular geometry – one that constitutes of low stresses – were explored in an attempt to produce these required results. Picture by : Carlina Teteris

Conclusion

MycoTree was conceived combining the knowledge of materials, construction, structures, and geometry, to address the problems posed by inefficiency in the realms of current materials for design use. As the centrepiece of the “Beyond Mining – Urban Growth” exhibition at the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 2017 in Seoul, MycoTree will be on display in Pavilion i7 at the Donuimun Museum Village from 01 September  to 05 November 2017. 

The plan and section of MycoTree

Exhibition layout of Beyond Mining – Urban Growth and top view of MycoTree at the Seoul Biennale 2017. Picture by : Sustainable Construction, KIT and BRG, ETH Zürich

 
the final exhibit

MycoTree will be on display in Pavilion i7 at the Donuimun Museum Village from 01 September to 05 November 2017. Picture by : Carlina Teteris

The MycoTree can be checked out at the Seoul Biennale. Learn more about the makers behind the brilliant structure at their websites at Block Research Group and ETH Zurich.