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Knitting the Future of Architecture using Fungal Mycelium

An arch made from fungal mycelium, grown within 3D knitted fabric formwork, is on display at the Design Museum, London.

21 November 2023

A team of researchers from The Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment are exhibiting their latest BioKnit prototype, a catenary arch that spans over two metres, at the Future Observatory Design Research Exhibition in London. The arch demonstrates the design possibilities of a biofabrication system that brings together 3D knitted fabric formwork with mycocrete; a unique formulation of mycelium composite, developed by the researchers for use with soft textile moulds.

The BioKnit Arch is a bespoke site-specific structure designed to fit the exact dimensions of the Design Museum gallery. There is significant challenges in working with such precision using new biohybrid materials, however the accuracy is achieved through a process that integrates parametric modelling, biotechnology and digital fabrication of knitted modules.

To make BioKnit prototypes using fungal mycelium, the research team mix mycelium spores with water and cellulose rich substrate materials including sawdust and paper fibres. This forms a viscous paste that is injected into tubular sections of the knitted fabrics. The environmental conditions are controlled to ensure a dark, warm and humid environment to allow the mycelium to grow. To generate the extraordinary 3D form, the structure is suspended, and as the mycelium grows, binding the substrates together, it transforms the soft flexible knitted textile into a rigid biocomposite.

The exhibition really demonstrates the importance of design research in addressing the challenges and opportuntites of the Green Transition

Dr Jane Scott

Growing as construction presents an opportunity to rethink a lot of the conventional construction processes and to develop new sustainable practices. Biofabrication has the flexibility to work locally either on site or off site, to reduce transportation associated with shipping individual parts for assembly. The team have also begun to work with local waste substrates to produce mycocrete with the aim of developing carbon negative materials for use in construction.

Dr Jane Scott said, "We were delighted to work closely with the Future Observatory team from the Design Museum in the development of the BioKnit Arch. The exhibition really demonstrates the importance of design research in addressing the challenges and opportuntites of the Green Transition.”

The research proposes applications for BioKnit in non-load bearing applications in buildings, for internal linings and to shape space. The ability to produce new geometries, curved surfaces and organic forms is very compelling for future architecture as well as new aesthetics and new tactile experiences that emerge from mycelium coming together with textiles at an architectural scale.

Research Team: Jane Scott, Ben Bridgens, Romy Kaiser, Armand Agraviador,

Research Support: Dilan Ozkan, Oliver Perry

Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment, Newcastle University