Thursday, 20 February 2014

Elegant Towers of Fungi

We have seen furniture made using fungi that illustrates the strength and utility of fungal mycelia once dried and baked (and varnished the seal in any allergic material), but now another artist/architect David Benjamin has designed a far more ambitious project.

David plans an outdoor structure in New York that will be dozens of feet high and will be big enough to walk through and provide shade for participants of events at the Museum of Modern Art.

The structures will be entirely built of bricks that are made of fungi and corn husk. Details of which fungi will be used is not yet forthcoming and of course we can only hope that careful consideration is given to using a species that is not pathogenic or allergenic! A major feature of this project is that nearly all of the materials used will eventually be composted and have very little impact on the environment.

Slightly concerning is the claim by the publicity that the fungus will be encouraged to continue to grow, further strengthening the tower. Depending on the type of fungus used this has potential to impact on health as many people are allergic to moulds. The furniture we mentioned earlier was varnished to reduce this risk and of course the bricks were baked to kill the fungus.

It is also worth commenting that the publicity specifically states that they will encourage light to enter the tower so as to encourage fungal growth. Most students of mycology will tell you that unlike plants, fungi do not use light for growth and many stop growing in light so this may be an error of the publicist, or more concerning perhaps an error in the perception of the original designer. What light can do is encourage the production of spores and that would be a worry for public health - allergy and the vulnerability of some people to infection are important considerations.

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