MYCELIUM + TIMBER: Exploring biofacture in a new collection of grown furniture

 

We have collaborated with design strategist and thinker Ninela Ivanova on pieces of grown furniture, made using mycelium (fungus) and wood, which will be presented for the first time at Design Frontiers 2017.

Visit our temporary laboratory of biofacture at Somerset House between 18 - 24 September, coinciding with the London Design Festival.

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"We have a near obsession with trying to find new uses for wood"

MYCELIUM+TIMBER comprises a series of stools and lights, made using freshly cut wood waste which has been myceliated with the species Fomes fomentarius. Each piece is created by the mycelium as it grows and binds the green wood waste together around purpose made frames to form lightweight, incredibly strong and completely compostable pieces of design. These pieces will be on display as part of a ‘work in progress’ installation which reveals the research and experimentation we have undertaken.

This remarkable material relationship between wood and fungus is a naturally occurring one which spans the ages. Through extensive research and experimentation, we have identified the mycelium species, Fomes fomentarius, as one which works most effectively with coppiced hazel and goat willow; two species of British wood currently without an economically valuable use and often considered as waste. Together we have taken this perfect material pairing and intelligently applied the symbiotic relationship to contemporary furniture.

Sebastian says:

“We have a near obsession with trying to find new uses for wood. I’ve always felt dissatisfied with combining this incredibly sustainable material with even the greenest of bioplastics. Mycelium offers us the opportunity to create products that not only continue but advance our ethos of sustainability and test our ability as a studio to design for new methods of manufacture.”

Ninela adds:

“Mycelium has been the focus of my design research and practice for the last seven years. It is a novel and versatile material. It offers new and sustainable processes for design fabrication but it also asks us to carefully consider and craft the aesthetic properties and perception of these new design forms. What truly excites me about this project is the holistic thinking and shared incentives behind combining mycelium and wood to create simply beautiful pieces of furniture and domestic objects that push the boundaries of design thinking around future biobased materials and processes.”

It is our shared vision of made objects, created in a rational way with the most appropriate materials which has brought us together with Ninela. Through our combined expertise in mycelium, wood and design, we have been working on this collection to change our material culture and positively impact the way people choose the objects in their home.

This process of using biological organisms to manufacture new materials is known as biofacture. Although it has been used to “grow” micro-organisms such as bacteria, algae, cellulose and protein fibres as an alternative to traditional materials like cotton and plastics, its extraordinary potential hasn’t yet been applied to commercial furniture design. MYCELIUM+TIMBER uses this process to create functional and domestic design, outside of experimental gallery pieces.  The MYCELIUM+TIMBER installation at Design Frontiers offers visitors to the festival an insight into the surprising marriage of two materials to both craft and produce domestic objects.

 
Brogan Cox