Fungus Follows Function
Fungus Follows Function
Research project exploring innovative
material production using mushrooms (B.A.)
Fungus Follows Function is a self initiated research project and was handed in as part of my bachelor thesis. Bachelor Thesis Book and Poster was developed together with Munich based design studio Daily Dialogue.
As an Industrial Design student, working with biology, mycology and chemistry is challenging. Learning along the way requires constant revaluation, bu creating new perspectives in combining science and design process.
Mushroom (=Fungus) based materials are currently in an early stage of development, although already produced by some companies in larger scales. Properties can range from a styrofoam-like material to something like leather. It is called the "future of plastic" for a reason, it is:
- fire retardant
- 100% natural
Take 5 minutes to watch Philip Ross, pioneer in fungus research, explain the opportunities for fungus design
What's a Fungus?
Fungi are the great recyclers breaking down and distributing all organic matter. A Fungus is an organism somewhere between animals and plants. It consists of mycelium, a network of cells that act as a whole.
What we typically know as a mushroom is only the fruit body of a much bigger organism. Paul Stamets calls it the "Natures Internet" as it connects trees and plants to exchange informations and nutrients.
What's out there?
Mushrooms can be manipulated and mixed to create entirely new types of materials. So far, it can vary from being like a plank, brick, strong leather or styrofoam. Entrepreneurs, Designers and Artists have already started use the materials for packaging, insulation, furniture and building.
While some pioneers like Ecovative are already selling to major companies, the research is still new and we can expect breakthrough developments in the next years. For more information check out these links:
To get a feeling how this works, I dived in head first. I ordered some mushroom spawns and substrates and just got to work.
I had a lot of contamination in these tests, so a crucial step was to create a clean working environment and process
Building a grow lab
Working with mushrooms, access to a lab is difficult.
Usually, labs try everything to keep these organisms out. To provide a clean environment, I built a growlab with HEPA working station.
1 - Mushroom
3 - Grow and extract pieces
7 - Grow in mould
2 - Extract a piece
4 - Grow in liquid nutrients
6 - Mix with substrate
8 - Dry
This is a selection of samples, many more tests have been produced. The main casting moulds, two seats and a scale surfboard were unfortunately lost to mould (the "bad" fungus).
The project was exhibited at „Einblick“ and „NeuNeuNeu“, the official Degree show and a separate, curated exhibition for graduates.
The project is documented and explained in detail in my bachelor thesis.
Additionally, it contains a theoretical work on the role of industrial design in a changing world.
The project was about understanding the principles, potentials and problematics of fungus production and ended in July 2016.
With an updated lab, next steps would be long-term mould development and testing.