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Remediating Architecture: A bio-hybrid approach employing fungal mycelium

Updated: Aug 1, 2021

Claudia Colmo (CITA)

Claudia Colmo is a registered architect based in Copenhagen. She obtained her BArch at TongJi University in Shanghai, China and enrolled for two years in the master program “Computation in Architecture” at The Danish Academy of Architecture, Design and Conservation in Copenhagen.

She is working as a research assistant at CITA under the EU founded project FUNGAR. Her own research and design practice find interest in exploring the relationship between biology and architecture through biomaterials, digital fabrication and computational design in order to create bio-hybrid architectures that functionally integrate living complexes. Natalie Alimas’ PhD research focuses on real-time robotic feedback systems developed between industrial robots, biological materials and computational design. By establishing a direct dialogue between the digital and physical realms, data is extracted from the organism in order to generate algorithmic computational behaviours. This material centric design approach aims to create a new set of highly volatile and strange geometries which are fabricated in real time. Natalie is the creator of BioLab Studios, a design studio taught at both RMIT and Monash University. This research explores mycelia growth in its application to architecture and design.

Project Description

Site contamination is a common challenge that faces the redevelopment of many urban areas, globally. The research describes a speculative approach to “in-situ” remediation that develops architectural potentials and a novel architectural program, providing a platform for unlocking such spaces in ways that conventional remediation practices cannot support. The feasibility of fungal based remediation is established in the literature with many studies identifying fungal strains suited for specific contaminants, providing data on rates of decontamination and protocols of preparation; Stamets (2005) provides an extensive mapping of fungal strains suitable for the treatment of various contaminants allowing for ‘mycorestoration’ strategies to be tailored to specific needs of the sites being targeted. Central to the remediation concept is the use of fungi that act as an organic decomposer of contaminants, and 3d print technologies to provide means of soil distribution and fabrication. This intersection of living complexes and technical elements places the work in the context of the emerging field of bio-hybrid architectures, defined as systems that symbiotically combine artificial and technical components with living complexes to achieve architectural objectives. The system combines inoculated lignocellulosic substrates with soil-based 3d printed structures that function as growth scaffolds, material boundaries and spatial organisers. The primary objective of the system is to exploit mycelium as a living remediator of contaminated sites, in the form of architectural proposition. The feasibility of this concept is investigated in two ways: 1) material composition development and process control parameters for soil-based 3d printing, 2) the synthesis of printed prototypes to determine geometric and environmental parameters for promoting colonisation of mycelium and supporting its role as both structural binder and `Mycorestoration' agent. This work is contextualised with reference to the state-of-the-art in order to identify the research gap and articulate the contribution of a mycelium-based remediating architecture.

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