Mycotectural Buildings Made Of Fungus
Mycotecture, or the creation of architectural forms with fungus, is being pioneered by Philip Ross at Far West Fungi in California. He doesn't use the caps of the mushroom; he's interested in the mycelium, the white root-like fibers that form a network in the soil below.
Grown in a mold, and then dried, it is an amazing material. It is nontoxic, fireproof, mold-resistant and extremely tough. Ross used bricks of mycelium to create an art project called Mycotectural Alpha, as well as natural packaging materials used in place of styrofoam.
Mushrooms are grown by packing sawdust into airtight bags, then steam cooking the packed bags for several hours. After these pasteurized wood chips have cooled down small pieces of mushroom tissue are introduced into the bag, which eagerly devours the neutralized wood. As the fungus digests and transforms the contents of the bag it solidifies into a mass of interlocking cells, slowly becoming denser and taking form. Like plaster or cement, mushrooms can be cast into almost any shape.The Ganoderma fungus takes two to four weeks to eat the sawdust and solidify into what looks like a decrepit cake.
After the mushroom tissue has colonized all of the sawdust the tops of the bags are cut off and moved into a growing room with high humidity. The bricks are then unwrapped and moved to a drying room for about a month.
Mushrooms digest cellulose and transform it into chitin, the same material that insect shells are made from. The bricks have the feel of a composite material with a core of spongy cross grained pulp that becomes progressively denser towards its outer layers. The skin itself is incredibly hard, shatter resistant, and can handle enormous amounts of compression. Shaping and cutting the bricks destroyed our files, rasps and saws.
Update 06-Apr-2020: Take a look at this quote from Larry Niven's 1968 story A Gift from Earth about architectural coral. End update.
SF fans enjoy tales about dwelling places that are all natural - and grown to order. Like the house trees from Jack Vance's classic 1954 novel The Houses of Iszm:
There were trees comprised of a central columnar trunk and four vast leaves, arching out and over to the ground to form four domed halls illuminated by the pale green transmitted light. There was a tough-trunked tree supporting a single turretlike pod, with lanceolate foliage spiking outward at the base: a watch-tower for the feuding tribesmen of Eta Scorpionis.
(Read more about the house trees)
From Mycotecture via Time; thanks to Meditating Bear for pointing this story out.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/11/2010)
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