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Extreme Change: a Mycelium research centre

Part 1 Project 2012
Matthew Grindey
Leeds Beckett University, UK
Castlefield’s historical cotton trade and the ethos of the design module, ‘Extreme Change’, inspire this project. A leading industry is re-established through the innovation of a new biomaterial. The project is integrated into the palimpsest of the redundant site and consumes the once-successful infrastructure of the previous industry: derelict factory buildings and expansive arches of an elevated railway.

Castlefield’s potential to manufacture cotton has passed. Instead, a material with similar biological structure will form a new research industry. Cotton is a natural material made up of fibrous strands. Likewise, Fungal Mycelia, the root of mushroom, is a mass of branching strands that intertwine to form a structural network capable of the same pound for pound strength as concrete.

The research centre will study Mycelium and advance its capabilities. By manipulating Mycelium, a new biological and biodegradable tectonic is developed. Research samples are grown in a set mould using organic waste as a compositional substrate. By varying the substrate, a diverse range of proprieties is formed.

The samples are used to produce a living façade adjoined to the laboratory facility. The façade is studied for density, strength, texture, appearance and longevity progressing the understanding of Mycelium. Currently, the samples will begin to decompose within three months if left exposed to the atmosphere. As the matter is biodegradable, it can be composted and turned back into organic waste and used to grow the next batch of samples creating a closed-loop cycle.

Once the capabilities of Mycelium are advanced, visitor facilities are constructed to promote its value. A non-invasive café and exhibition pavilion is grown using Mycelium as a freestanding structural matter enclosed within a protective geo-textile fabric. The research outcome is an entirely biological, biodegradable and future sustainable form of architecture.

Matthew Grindey


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