Whilst 3D printing has certainly expanded the horizons when it comes to personal design, one company has taken things a step further by designing a sustainable building material (essentially) from mushrooms. Mushroom Materials is a unique “Grow your own design” kit from the material science company Ecovative. The material is made from agricultural byproducts and mushroom mycelium (the vegetative part of the mushroom fungus), and has been nominated for the Design Museum's 2015 Design of the Year award!
Mushroom Materials is a unique “Grow your own design” kit from the material science company Ecovative
The idea behind the product is to provide an organic alternative to plastics and synthetic packaging, with the mycelium acting as a natural glue to bind with agricultural waste like seed husks and corn stalks, to form a unique and sustainable bioplastic. The resulting material is fully compostable and surprisingly versatile, and a new product allows designers to get in on the ground floor and grow their own from scratch.
Ecovative – Mushroom Packaging
The DIY kit comes as a simple bag of dried Mushroom Materials, which can be packaged and shipped internationally as they don't require any refrigeration. All you need to do to grow the material is simply add water, with the rehydration process taking around three to four days. Ecovative themselves explain the process as “Kind of like letting dough rise before you shape and bake your loaf of bread.” To grow the material into whatever shape you desire, simply place it into a custom mould once it's wet and it will grow to fill that mould.
The idea behind the product is to provide an organic alternative to plastics and synthetic packaging
One person already sold on the virtues of Mushroom Materials and the DIY kit is David Benjamin from The Living architectural studio in New York. Benjamin and his team built an “Organic tower” last year in the courtyard of New York's MoMA PS1 Gallery. The design featured circular buildings created entirely from natural materials, and was the winning entry in the gallery's 2014 Young Architects Programme. Benjamin explained that “Prototyping is a crucial part” of The Living's design process," and he felt the DIY kit from Ecovative was the perfect way for them to “Quickly explore options and get a feel for how this amazing new material works.”
Ecovative – Overview
Other notable designs created with the material include the biodegradable surfboard by Surf Organic, and a 3D printed chair by Eric Klarenbeek, but perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing (and usable) design yet comes courtesy of designer Danielle Trofe. She has used Mushroom Materials to create a beautiful table lamp, a ceiling pendant and plant pots by using the material alongside compressed cork and concrete. Trofe said “The ability to have a hands-on experience with the Mushroom Material, to grow it, to learn its properties and to experiment with its living characteristics, has not only created a much more dynamic prototyping experience, but a more inventive and in-tune approach to material-based product design.” We can't wait what she, and all the other ambitious designers out there have in store for the future of this marvellous and unique new tool.