Move Over Concrete and Make Room for Mushrooms

Move Over Concrete and Make Room for Mushrooms

14th October 2015

You may have noticed that we've recently published a series of articles on the subject of concrete which has been dubbed the most versatile and innovative material on the planet. We've looked at the history of concrete, and gone on to cover all the different types of concrete in use today:

Concrete (which was originally discovered back in Roman times) is one of the most widely used materials in the world and features in all types of structures from houses to patios, roads, bridges and so many other building projects. It was used to build the Hoover Dam, the Panama Canal and the Colosseum in Rome! However, despite the fact that concrete has been brought bang up to date for the 21st Century, there's a new kid on the block which may, in future years, present quite a challenge to concrete as a building material.

San Francisco mycologist and artist, Phil Ross has been experimenting with growing mushrooms that can be used to produce all types of products - chairs, stools and even building blocks. Phil's art work has been driven by a lifelong fascination for biology and when he spent time working as a chef he began to achieve an understanding of biochemistry and lab methodology. Combined with his interest in wild mushrooms, this inspired Phil to experiment with growing fungal building materials and the mushroom brick was born!

As a San Francisco Art Institute student in the 1980s, Phil became interested in alternative medicines, including medicinal marijuana. During this time he worked in a hospice and helped to access bud for people suffering from terminal illnesses. On a visit to an "underground apothecary" he was introduced to one of the stars of traditional Chinese medicine, the reichi mushroom, a fungus often referred to as the "Mushroom of Immortality". Unable to pick enough wild mushrooms in the local forests, Phil built a "shroom room" in his art studio and began to experiment with specimens. He discovered that wood chips provided a great food source and a structure for the fungus's growth. Phil is a real fun guy and began to show his "creations" in the city's galleries earning himself a reputation as a craft mycologist. One of his projects was a life size model of the fuselage, wings and cockpit of a 747 grown from wood-fed oyster mushroom bricks.

When interviewed, Phil said "The question isn't, 'What can fungus do?' - It's 'What do 

you want it to do'. Fungi are transformative agents in the truest sense of the word". Phil is now on a mission to make his creations more utilitarian, claiming that every part of a house from the bricks to the bed frames can be made (or, more accurately, grown) from mushrooms if they are grown and cast correctly. Phil calls the art of fungal building and design mycotecture and believes that it's a breakthrough in sustainable building.

Phil's not alone in his quest, there are other innovators in the mushroom revolution who are pioneering the use of mushrooms as a substitute for products that we wouldn't normally associate with fungi. We'll keep an eye out for further developments in this fascinating story and keep you, our readers, updated - just watch this space.