A Flip on Moldy Furniture

We are quickly depleting all of our natural resources and speedily creating non-recyclable materials in their place. Technology is continually creating new materials that are very innovative, but there is one drawback. The majority of them have a life cycle that ceases after it has been shown. While it is exciting to see how we push the limits and create these exciting innovative materials, we are forgetting that after they have been shown off, there is no other use for them besides filling up more landfills. I think that we need to focus less on relying on technology to create interesting materials that do not accomplish much but provide a show of our intelligence in creation, and focus more on using what we already have abundant in nature and can be returned to nature when it is finished. Philip Ross used thought like this and looked to one of his passions for inspiration. Philip Ross was always very interested in fungus and mushrooms and saw them as incredible organisms that way they work together, grow, and break down other material.

A dried block of fungus.

To almost everyone, fungus is the enemy. Mold on anything is disgusting and ruins fabrics, food, and homes. It can be seen as a problem due to its abundance and how it seems to cover everything. Philip Ross discovered a way to grow fungus and make it into architectural elements that can be used for building structures and furniture. What is most important to take away from this discovery is how sustainable it is. Philip Ross has made molds out of wood to grow the mold in. It is grown in a super temperature controlled room to grow the fungus. He says that he can create an armchair in just 2 weeks of growing the fungus and then designing the chair. At first, I thought this was a pretty disgusting idea. I couldn’t imagine sitting on mold. To me it seemed like the texture would be terrible and that it would smell. Ross says though that to harden the bricks he puts them in a kiln and there is basically no odor released. He describes the texture as “Fluffy cotton, rubber, high-impact plastic, cork, styrofoam, or a complex hybrid composite–all within the same monolithic object,” which sounds pretty comfortable I think, once you get past the fact that it’s fungus you are sitting on. Ross has also created a small arch to demonstrate the strength of his fungus blocks. He has found the fungus to work well with structural objects, “The skin itself is incredibly hard, shatter resistant, and can handle enormous amounts of compression,”.

The tops of the bags are left open so that a controlled amount of humidity can enter the bag.

The project was called “mycotecture”. You can read more about his process of growing the fungus and creating structures here at his website http://philross.org/#projects/mycotecture/ . He has done an excellent job documenting his process from growing the fungus to designing the project.

An image of the arch that was constructed with the fungus blocks.

I think what is important to note with ideas such as this where an artist, architect, or whoever, finds a way to make something from a substance that would have never been thought of. What I mean is I think it’s a sign of great creativity when an artist understand the qualities of a substance, in this case fungus, and from this understanding, can create something like furniture, which most people would never put the two ideas together. I think this all relates back to the ideas of the process of generating a creative idea. Sometimes, you have to start with the silly ideas and work from there. Growing furniture out of fungus might not be the most logical solution, but because of the many pros it has such being super sustainable, strong, and can be easily made into a variety of modular shapes. As designers, we need to take ideas such as this and learn from them. If we can learn from something that seems non-sensible and find a way to make it logical, I think that we will find a very successful future in developing new ways to make use of the materials that nature has already provided us. This is the type of creative thinking that needs to be harnessed and used to continue searching for the most sustainable way to build our future.




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