The Growing Use of Mushroom Architecture in Urban Design

Where once we thought of the art of architecture as building a home or property, who knew it was possible for you to grow your own house? Talk about mushrooms in the use of urban design may spark ideas of trolls living in giant colourful toadstool houses with windows, however, in reality, the root structure of mushrooms and fungi are being used as a method of creating bricks and other building material through the use of mycotecture. 

What is mycotecture and how is it possible to build with mushrooms?

‘Myco’ is derived from the Greek word for ‘fungus’, therefore, Mycotecture is just that – fungus architecture. It’s the use of mushrooms in the building and construction of buildings, including homes and commercial properties, such as office buildings or even hotels. Often, mycotecture is referred to buildings that are created in the shape of a mushroom, such as the Metropol Parasol, however, in the truest form, it’s the use of the material itself, especially the mycelium. 

Mycelium is the natural development of kilometres upon kilometres of microscopic hyphae which is what the flesh of a mushroom or fungi is made up of. It’s the starting point of the cycle of life, turning organic matter back into the earth. Mycelium is a very sticky, glue-like, binding material that many have found other uses for – such as in architecture itself. Mycelium has the potential of replacing toxic and harmful binders in construction when grown and developed in a controlled location, which can also promote local and environmental growth industries above polluting technologies that often use nonrenewable resources.

Mycotecture can use a different variety of mushrooms for usage in urban architecture. Phil Ross, an American and one of the pioneers in mycotecture, used Reishi mushrooms, also known as Ganoderma lucidum in his development of bricks using mycelium and sawdust that actually created a material stronger than concrete. 

In 2014, the world’s first mushroom tower was built in New York using 10,000 bricks called “The Living.” In this case, corn stalks were used in place of sawdust. The temporary structure stood as part of the summer’s Young Architect Program (YAP) and won!

The benefits of growing mushrooms in an urban space. 

The way mushrooms are grown, being smart about energy use is good for production AND good for the environment. Buildings with mushrooms are considered to be carbon neutral since mushrooms only build on naturally grown carbon sources. Growing one kg of mushrooms is also very efficient, in fact, it generates just 0.7 kg of CO2 equivalents.The mushrooms themselves are completely renewable, and can easily be grown locally instead of manufactured overseas. 

Farmlyplace found a way to re-cycle CO2, produced by mushrooms in a closed loop system with hydroponic plant production, where CO2 can be consumed and transferred into oxygen.  More than just the environmental and economic benefits, which are huge in themselves, the mycelium and materials mixed to bind with the mushrooms are stronger than concrete and other typical building materials and can last quite a long time. 

When it does become time for the mushroom-designed materials to retire, they are 100% compostable and don’t require to be left in landfills that can take thousands of years to break down. Plus, they’re mushrooms, so when they do begin to compost, their natural process will begin to break down the organic material around them as well. 

If you are interested in learning more about mushroom architecture in urban design as well as other natural plant resources, check out the event section of our website or the rest of our blog or reach out for a conversation with a member of our team today!

Upcoming Event: Food in the City – Urban Design and Architecture for Food Security (Opens in a new browser tab)

Past Event: Food in the City – Urban Design and Architecture for Food Security (Opens in a new browser tab)

Further Reading: A Beginner’s Guide to Biophilic Design (Opens in a new browser tab)

Further References


This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)

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