The ‘Growing Lab’ is an ongoing design-research project, actively engaging with exploring and assessing methodologies for the implementation of Mycelium, as a main agent for the development of novel materials and processes.
One of the main challenges of the current century is to transform our consumption-oriented economic system into an eco-friendly and self-sustaining society, capable of minimising energy consumption, carbon emissions and the production of waste, while reducing production costs.
Mycelium is the fast-growing, vegetative part of fungi, consisting of a tight network of interconnected filamentous cells, called hyphae. Thanks to such structure, the mycelium is capable of harvesting, transforming and re-distributing nutrients, both for his own benefit (mushroom growth) and for the larger ecosystem. The Mycelia of mushroom-forming basidiomycetes are highly attractive because of their tendency of growing on a wide variety of substrates (e.g. agricultural waste), with the potential of converting waste products into novel compounds, characterised by diverse qualities; depending on the species and on the growth parameters, in fact, it is possible to develop materials with peculiar properties, as for instance in relation to strength, elasticity, thickness, homogeneity, water repellency, etc.
The resulting materials – both structural and decorative – are highly interesting for the development of applications which relate to architecture and design.
“What is the potential of high-(bio)tech, craft-based thinking, when combined with open- source, made-to-measure processes?”
This short question underlies a vast number of objectives and research directions, which are currently being explored and that will be further examined along the research process, aiming to understand and exemplify the possibilities that a novel material, literally grown thanks to the action of fungal micro-organisms, will be able to provide to society at large, thus resulting in a series of practical applications, meant to substitute dangerous plastic compounds, which are currently harming the ecosystem, we are part of.
The ambition of the project is in fact to tangibly demonstrate how traditional synthetic (oil-based), toxic materials, such as plastics, could be replaced with novel mycelium-based materials, grown on natural, organic substrates.
Moreover, mycelium-based materials are fully compostable and can be freely disposed of, as in a garden, re-entering the natural cycles and becoming nutrients for new life.
Within this framework, “The Growing Lab” aims to indicate unprecedented paths regarding the generation of better and economically sustainable production possibilities, transforming current existing paradigms, systems and networks, and suggesting a shift from the traditional concept of industrial production towards an innovative model, rooted in cultivation.
Ultimately, the project represents an open invitation to the need of researching possible alternatives and potentially different futures, in which novel materials, considered as replacement for traditional plastics, could be grown and could exist as completely natural and neutral matters.
Concept, design and development:
Maurizio Montalti (OC)
Maurizio Montalti (OC), Utrecht Universiteit
Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie, Stichting DOEN
Generously supported by: