A living house made of mycelium

For his graduation project at Delft University of Technology, Dutch engineer Bob Hendrikx developed a test setup of ‘living architecture’, consisting of mycelium.

While living in a toadstool was reserved only for gnomes before, if it were up to Hendrikx, this will soon change. Mycelium, the root system of fungi, can be used to make anything from packaging material to architectural constructions.

Hendrikx’s project differs, however, because in most of these other projects, the root system is killed, which means the growth also stops. For his graduation project, Hendrikx constructed moulds that were filled with organic material with a strong fibrous structure, like saw dust, hay and hemp. The mycelium spores that were added consume this material, creating a three dimensional network. The resulting block is removed from the mould without any further processing. Thus, the mycelium stays alive and can heal itself, or different blocks can be merged. In addition, mycelium is waterproof and fire resistant.

The condition of building with living blocks is that they have to be cared for, Hendrikx says. If they aren’t, the mycelium consumes all the fibres and the blocks lose their strength. The mycelium would become a soft mass that returns to the earth.

Once a building is no longer necessary, however, this scenario can be used to dismantle it without the need for demolition, which means no waste.

In the future, Hendrikx aims to build houses with mycelium, the care of which is monitored via an interface, “like a Tamagotchi”. The user is notified when the house needs to be cared for. By adding bacteria using a spraying system, the material can provide light or warmth. But theoretically, it would also be possible to grow an extra room or add plants to your roof.

“My project is an exploration towards living architecture, in which humanity will inhabit mycelium-based pods,” Hendrikx commends. “By nurturing the architecture, the inhabitant can extend its stay and truly become part of nature’s closed loop system. Hereby, an opportunity arises for mankind to break through its fixed-minded ideas and introduce a new mutualistic relationship between humanity and its environment. Imagine a building that grows, breaths and heals itself. I present, interlink: world’s first living architecture.”

During Dutch Design Week 2019 (19-27 October), Hendrikx showed his test setup called Mollie, made with non-toxic mushroom spores from Japan. The test setup has a fuzzy layer on the outside, making it “pettable architecture”.

Photos via DDW