Designers are on a mushroom mission to convert the clever little collections of organisms from a food source to a material fit for furniture.
Mushrooms have already been used as insulation for houses and transformed into bricks as an alternative building material.
In 2009, activist and author of The Blue Economy Gunter Pauli announced a project that cultivated mushrooms through coffee and agricultural waste.
The latest mushroom project has seen Philadelphia University students Merjan Tara Sisman and Brian McClellan create a prototype chair and pendant lights from the mycelium roots of mushrooms.
The industrial design students created the collection through their Living Room Project, which explored creating objects from living materials.
To create the collection, McClellan and Sisman first explored a series of materials and similar projects including the work of British fashion designer and founder of BioCouture, Suzanne Lee.
Lee is renowned for her research in biomaterials and bio manufacturing where she famously engineered bacteria (green tea, yeast and microbes) to create ‘vegetable leather.’
McClellan and Sisman sourced prefabricated “bricks” of agricultural waste (wood chips, sawdust, and other stuff) inoculated with fast-growing oyster mushrooms from a California farm.
With the products contained, the duo kept the materials moist awaiting the growth of the mycelium until it was suitable to bend and mould into the required shapes.
Within a few short weeks, the moulds for both the chair and pendant were ready and baked to stop the material growing.
According to McClellan, while the pendant is durable, it was chosen as it would face minimal human contact throughout most of its lifespan.
The chair, meanwhile is designed for indoor use but would still require an organic coating before it can be used. Depending on the finish used, it could also be suitable for use outside.
In other fungus-based projects San Francisco-based artist and mycologist Philip Ross has made a name for himself by dedicating over 20 years to creating furniture and building materials from mushrooms.
Once cultivated and dried, Ross said his material could be stronger than concrete due to its ability to be water, mould and fire resistant.
Ross’ famous Mycotecture project saw bricks that were grown out of the medicinal Lingzhi mushroom (Gandoderma lucidum) formed to make an impressive arch. Ross is also planning to grow an entire building out of the material in the future.