Mycelia are the network-like, living root structures of fungi. They have unique properties that allow them to adapt and survive in various climates and environments. Different mycelium species have unique properties that can make them optimal for various uses, one such example is for living building materials (LBMs). In recent years, mycelium has been gaining popularity as an LBM, particularly species with dense mycelial networks. This property makes them optimal for construction or sculpture. One recent example of the use of mycelium as a building material is in Studio Link-Arc’s installation Mushroom Brick Pyramids.

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View up into the mycelium brick installation

The installation was featured at the 2022 Shenzhen Biennale called Urban Cosmologies and aligns with the exhibition’s theme, “More than Human Adventure.” The project seeks to appreciate the qualities of mycelium, create a symbiosis between architecture and the living material and explore how mycelium can inspire the future of architecture.

Related: Can we live in buildings made from living materials?

Close up of mycelium brick

The project consists of 400 hanging mycelium blocks, which are arranged into an inverted pyramid form. The design flips the common pyramid form to create an unexpected form. This symbolizes the duality of meaning and the interplay of man-made objects vs. nature. Since the exhibition is in a converted brewery, the gallery spaces lie between the concrete building framework. This structure visually frames the installation for the audience. Furthermore, the designers created a pool under the hanging form. This creates a moist microclimate and allows the mycelium bricks to absorb water vapor from the humid air.

Viewers taking pictures of Mushroom Brick Pyramid installation

To grow the mycelium bricks, the designers used bagasse, waste straw and wheat bran for the substrate. The mycelium also uses this as sustenance to grow and then solidifies within the mold.

Assembly of Mushroom Brick Pyramids installation

Because of the density of the mycelial networks, the resulting blocks are strong and even plastic, which means they can be grown into other shapes if placed in the right environmental conditions. Though most of the mycelium will be inactive after the bricks are hung, the design team selected a few bricks to continue growing after the installation was assembled.

Assembly of Mushroom Brick Pyramids installation

Finally, after the installation is disassembled, the blocks can be buried in the soil to decompose. Since the blocks are made up of 100% natural materials, they will degrade entirely without harming the environment.

+ Studio Link-Arc

Photography by Yu Bai