Mushrooms: The New Building Material
Grown from the soil over six weeks, the project is composed of a series of arches, made from a record 1-kilometer-long mycelium. The installation, “The Circular Garden,” experiments with sustainable structures which can grow organically and then return to nature in a fully circular way. Mushrooms, with their natural adaptability and speed of growth have become an ideal choice of building material. This project pushes the boundaries of using mycelium – the fibrous root of mushrooms – in design. In recent years, mycelium has been employed for sustainable packaging and small brick-like objects. The installation engages with a series of 60, 4-meter-high arches made of mycelium scattered around the Orto Botanico.
The project takes inspiration from the great Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí’s “inverted catenary” method where the catenaries compose a series of four architectural “open rooms” scattered throughout the circular garden. The mycelium was grown in two months preceding the opening of the Circular Garden with the help of experts in the field of mycology – particularly the Dutch Krown Bio lab. Spores were injected into organic material to start the growth process. The project can be reused in a circular fashion – mushrooms, ropes and wood chips will go back to the soil and small metal elements will be recycled. “Nature is a much smarter architects than us,” says Carlo Ratti, founding partner of CRA and director of the MIT Senseable City Lab. “As we continue our collective quest for a more responsive ‘living’ architecture, we will increasingly blur the boundaries between the worlds of the natural and the artificial”, he said.