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Brief Published: 11 Jun 2019

Mycelium Temporary Architecture that Biodegrades After Use

Carlo Ratti Associati

For pop-up installations and events, there is a need to develop temporary architecture that does not harm the site or condemn materials to the trash after use. Italian architecture studio Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) is exploring how organic matter can offer a sustainable stand-in for construction materials and produce structures that grow from and return to the soil.

As part of this year’s Milan Design Week (8-14 April), CRA worked with multinational energy company Eni to produce the Circular Garden. The installation is an outdoor green space marked with 60 arches grown from mushroom root, otherwise known as mycelium.

CRA injected mushroom spores into a long organic base to propagate and fortify the structure. Fungi has a fast growth time: the entire installation, which boasts an impressive 1km of mycelium, was fully developed in six weeks.

However, the duration of Milan Design Week is even shorter; after the festivities the structure was shredded into a compostable pulp. The few additional materials used in the installation are similarly considered: natural rope and wood chips decompose along with the mycelium, and small metal joining elements are recycled for new projects. 

As we explore in our latest Macro report, The Wealth in Waste, mounting economic and environmental pressures mean that it is no longer an option for businesses to waste resources. Biodegradable alternatives, such as mycelium, offer a means to satisfy the here-now needs of short-lived architecture before it returns to the earth.

For more on how biodegradable materials are facilitating eco-conscious consumption, see our Product Design Direction A/W 20/21 Grounded.