Gallery: Philip Ross Molds Fast-Growing Fungi Into Mushroom Building Br...

Mycologist Philip Ross is seriously into mushrooms, but not as a food -- instead, he uses fungi as a building material. Beneath the surface of the ground, fungi form a wide network of thin, rootlike fibers called mycelium. That part of the fungus isn't
Mycologist Philip Ross is seriously into mushrooms, but not as a food -- instead, he uses fungi as a building material. Beneath the surface of the ground, fungi form a wide network of thin, rootlike fibers called mycelium. That part of the fungus isn't particularly tasty, but Ross discovered that when dried, it can be used to form a super-strong, water-, mold- and fire-resistant building material. The dried mycelium can be grown and formed into just about any shape, and it has a remarkable consistency that makes it stronger, pound for pound, than concrete. The 100% organic and compostable material has even piqued the interest of NYC's MoMa PS1, where the award-winning Hy-Fi Mushroom Tower pavilion is currently being built.

We first discovered Ross’ unique mycelium material at The Workshop Residence in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood during the 2012 AIA SF‘s month-long Architecture and the City festival. There, Ross is erecting a small laboratory in which he will grow mushrooms that will be used to produce a series of chairs and stools. “I want to demonstrate how you can create this kind of fabrication using local agricultural waste,” Ross told Food Republic regarding his Workshop Residence furniture.

The lab was still under construction when we visited, but some of Ross’ completed works were on display. The exciting thing about mycelium is that it can be used to build virtually anything. In many of Ross’ creations he grows the fungus into a brick, which becomes super hard and surprisingly lightweight once it dries. For example, in Mycotecture, one of his most ambitious structures, Ross grew the fungus Ganoderma lucidum (or Reishi) into bricks at the Far West Fungi mushroom farm in Monterey, California, and stacked them into an arch. A variety of different lacquers and finishes can also be applied to the outer layer of the bricks to seal them and give them a glossy finish.

Related: 3D-Printed Mycelium Chair Sprouts Living Mushrooms!

“It has the potential to be a substitute for many petroleum-based plastics. It’s left the art world and seems to have entered a Science Fiction novel or something like that,” explained Ross in a recent interview with Glasstire. “With this stuff it’s possible to go into regional production of biomaterials. For instance, here in San Francisco, we could start producing lots of local materials using this fungus and could create a pilot project of sorts.”

Ross also recently patented his own version of the mycotecture procedure; Evocative, the biomaterials firm behind NYC’s Hy-Fi Mushroom Tower, has also been awarded a patent for a similar procedure. Ross isn’t just interested in mycelium’s potential as a building material, though — he also uses it as a medium for fine art. His work has been on display at several at museums around the world, and he regularly debuts his other biomaterials works at events such as Maker Faire.

+ Philip Ross

+ The Workshop Residence


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  1. Rhea Anderson August 20, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    This is so amazing are the dried bricks water proof?

  2. Gail Anthony December 30, 2014 at 2:20 am

    This is wonderful. I would love to see it used on a larger scale.

  3. Mel Pi December 29, 2014 at 5:51 am

    Hu hom, this may seem like a nice idea, but
    how long will the mycelium hold, before it degrades?
    how do you stop it from growing new funghi when wet?
    how do you prevent it from falling apart when wet?
    howis the energy input output balance?
    seems to me at the moment like a very basic building material that needs a lot more study before it can be used commercially.

  4. Arrandenham November 27, 2014 at 8:04 am

    I like mushrooms,I like eat Mushroom sausages,Those will be very tasty.

  5. Bruno Casanova September 24, 2014 at 8:21 am

    I find this idea of building material out of funghi fascinating…here in Sweden there are lots of funghi, I mean the toxic ones, which may be used by the milions to build instead of letting them rott…fascinating…congratulations; may you give me some exact informations wheather they have to be dry – the funghi I mean – and how to mix them, e.g. saw dust etc….tks a lot….bruno martin casanova

  6. Jonathan Baruc July 12, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    What’s the cost for mycotecture materials compared to other typical building materials? Is it easy to source large amounts of it?

  7. User1 May 26, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    If it\\\’s light, it might also have insulative prperties.

  8. Ian Falcon Bentley December 25, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Nature provides … we only need to discover where to look! And increasingly it is substances that the ‘powers that be’ have tried to marginalise … and even criminalise … that offer some of mankind’s greatest opportunities. Between mushrooms, hemp, bamboo, and a few other organic alternatives … lies a totally efficient and sustainable alternative to the way we currently build our homes, and so much more. Truly exciting. How do we prevent the ‘authorities’ from pulling a dirty on this project? This is deeply disruptive, and a lot of vested interests are threatened …

  9. bthinker September 23, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    I’m the only one weird enough to ask this, what’s the heat range for application and thermal expansion and degradation timeline.

  10. Nyrlha September 23, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Hi, I live in Spain and am a ceramicist.I love the green architecture and I would like to know more about the technique with fungi, although the difficulty of the language I hope share and acquire knowledge.Thank you

  11. James Comegys September 21, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Wonderful idea. When does Mr. Toss receive visitors?

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