Cultivating load-bearing structures: the MycoTree
Updated: Sep 7, 2021
Felix Heisel (Cornell University/ Circular Construction Lab)
Felix Heisel is an architect and academic working towards the systematic redesign of the built environment as a material depot of endless use and reconfiguration. At Cornell University, he holds the position of Assistant Professor in Architecture and acts as the Director of the Circular Construction Lab. Heisel is also a partner at 2hs architects and engineers, Germany, an office specialized in the development of circular prototypologies. He has been recognized internationally for his work and has published numerous books and articles on the topic, including Urban Mining und kreislaufgerechtes Bauen (Urban Mining and Circular Construction, Fraunhofer IRB, 2021), Cultivated Building Materials (Birkhäuser, 2017), and Building from Waste (Birkhäuser, 2014).
Heisel graduated from the Berlin University of the Arts, Germany and has been teaching and researching at universities around the world, including the Berlage Institute; the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction, and City Developments; ETH Zürich, both in Switzerland and Singapore; and Harvard GSD.
All images copyright: Felix Heisel / Carlina Teteris, 2017
MycoTree is a spatial branching structure made out of load-bearing mycelium components. Its geometry was designed using 3D graphic statics, keeping the weak material in compression only. Its complex nodes were grown in digitally fabricated moulds.
Utilizing only mycelium and bamboo, the structure represents a provocative vision of how we may move beyond the mining of our construction materials from the earth’s crust to their cultivation and urban growth; how achieving stability through geometry rather than through material strength opens up the possibility of using weaker materials structurally and safely; and, ultimately, how regenerative resources in combination with informed structural design have the potential to propose an alternative to established, structural materials for a more sustainable building industry.
MycoTree is the result of a collaboration between the Professorship of Sustainable Construction at KIT Karlsruhe (Felix Heisel, Karsten Schlesier, Dirk E. Hebel), the Block Research Group at ETH Zürich (Juney Lee, Matthias Rippmann, Philippe Block), the Future Cities Laboratory (Nazanin Saeidi, Alireza Javadian) in Singapore and Mycotech in Indonesia. It is the centrepiece of the “Beyond Mining – Urban Growth” exhibition at the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 2017 in Seoul, Korea curated by Hyungmin Pai and Alejandro Zaera-Polo, and was on display in Pavilion i7 at the Donuimun Museum Village from September 2017 to April 2018.