Photo: Stefanie Holzheu
Architecture by Fungi
A city made of fungi? Skyscrapers built from champignon, a train station formed by chanterelles, and the walls of the city hall of oyster mushrooms: What sounds like a scene from Wonderland almost becomes a reality with the MY-CO BUILD project. The architect Sven Pfeiffer and the bio-technologist and artist Vera Meyer got to know each other in the Futurium Lab. They now envision places and spaces created with fungi.
Photo: Stefanie Holzheu
An underestimated organism
If you think of fungus primarily as mushrooms, brackets and molds you underestimate their potentials. Among other things, fungi have a body consisting of thin individual fibers that together form what is known as mycelium. Depending on the type of species, mycelium can live, spread, and grow on a wide range of materials, from soil to coffee grounds. In order to live on such materials, fungi dissolve nutrients from their environment with enzymes and absorbs the nutrients. Like animals, fungi also have to eat, just in a different form. They grow simply and independently in a wide variety of places.
Sustainable construction with fungi
Not only are fungi growing very easily, but also their fiber structure is ideal as building material. Mycelium can be used for composite materials for insulation against heat and sound, and even fire. For example, sound- or heat-proof tiles can be made from mycelium. In the future, fungi could even replace certain conventional building materials, such as cement that pollutes the environment and contributes to degrading the climate. Overall, the production of conventional building materials highly depends on the extraction of non-renewable resources including fossil fuels and causes many environmental problems, such as greenhouse gas emission and waste.
The steady growth of population, urbanization, and the associated need for more construction activities represent, on the one hand, almost insurmountable challenges for architecture and construction industry as a whole, and on the other, above all, the enormous CO2 emissions as a result. The construction industry is one of the biggest climate villains in the world. Sustainably grown fungus materials could therefore offer an alternative. In near future, mycelium composite materials can be produced in a climate-friendly and cost-effective manner. In addition, mycelium can simply be separated and completely composted at the end of the building‘s lifecycle. Simply put, the use of fungi could contribute to a lightweight and circular building practice.
The Futurium Lab
In the Futurium Lab, fungi take the center stage of the debate about the future of human construction and lifestyles. Sven Pfeiffer and Vera Meyer together founded the science and art collective MY-CO-X that, both scientifically and artistically, deals with the question of how significant a role fungi can play for the creation of places and spaces. Previously, both had been featured at the Futurium Lab with their own projects and became acquainted with each other’s work. The architect Sven Pfeiffer (Studio Sven Pfeiffer & Bochum University of Applied Sciences, Department of Digital Design, Planning and Building) prints architecture. He used a robot arm and ceramic materials for his project "Printed Tower."
The bio-technologist and artist Vera Meyer (aka V. meer, Department of Applied and Molecular Microbiology, Technical University Berlin) exhibited her citizen science project "Mind the Fungi" on how different fungi can be used for bio- and circular economy. Building on their combined experiences, Pfeiffer and Meyer are now developing new ideas for a fungus-based construction industry of the future with a team of bio-technologists, architects, and artists.
The MY-CO BUILD project combines various components that are conventionally and additively manufactured using fungus materials, and thereby change the components’ function and performance. This creates new possibilities and develops approaches toward a sustainable building culture of the future. Various exhibits on the world of fungi and fungus-based materials allow the visitors to experience the future.
The tinder fungus (Fomes Fomentarius) from Berlin-Brandenburg is used in many types of materials applications. During its growth on various leftover materials from agriculture and forestry, such as straw and wood chips, the mycelium of tinder fungus forms a permanent network of branching cell fibers. This three-dimensional network of the fungus compresses the plant material into a solid composite that can have different densities and properties from the ordinary wood.
The mycelium in effect forms biological mortar. As it grows into concrete, cement, or wood, the mycelium composite can also tightly bond to a third material. The mycelium works as a biological adhesive. From the various exhibits, you can feel the potentials of modern bio-technology and digital building processes and experience the quality of new fungus-based architecture.
MY-CO Build is a project by the SciArt collective MY-CO-X. Furthermore, the following parties are involved: Christian Schmidts, Digitales and Experimental Design, University of the Arts Berlin and MYX acoustic by Jonas Edvard & Jan Wurm, Arup Berlin funded by the Fritz and Trude Fortmann Foundation.The Fritz and Trude Fortmann Foundation for Building Culture and Materials is concerned with the relationship between building culture and the conditions of its materialisation. It promotes the development of sustainable building materials and construction methods as well as research into the ecological, functional and atmospheric properties of materials.