We’re at Milan Design Week: growing a structure like a mushroom

MaterialDistrict is currently in Milan, looking for the best material innovations. Today: an architectural structure made of mushroom mycelium, installed in the centre of the city for Milan Design Week.

The project, called The Circular Garden, was developed by Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) and energy company Eni. The installation was grown from soil over the past six weeks, and will be returned to the soil at the end of the month. The structure is composed of a series of arches, adding up to 1 kilometre long mycelium, and experiments with sustainable structures that can grow organically and return to nature circularly.

To create the self-supporting mycelium structures, the project takes inspiration from the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. He was the one who resurrected the “inverted catenary” method pioneered in the 18th century by polymath Giovanni Poleni. According to this method, the best way to create pure compression structures is to find their form using suspended catenaries and then invert them. The same applies to the Circular Garden, where the catenaries compose a series of four architectural “open rooms” scattered throughout the garden.

The installation was grown in the garden with the help of leading experts in the field of mycology, in particular the Dutch Krown.Bio lab. Spores were injected into organic material to start the growth process. At the end of Milan Design Week, the installation will be shredded and go back to the soil.

The project is showcased at Brera’s Orto Botanico, the city’s botanical garden. The installation, part of the INTERNI Human Spaces exhibition, will be open to the public from 9 to 19 April 2019.

Stay tuned for more Milan news!

Photos: Carlo Ratti Associati