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Architecture formed of fungal mycelium is growing in Newcastle

Published on: 26 February 2024

The Growing Room will be exhibited as part of the Edinburgh Science Festival.

A team of researchers at Newcastle and Northumbria universities' Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment (HBBE) are growing their latest BioKnit prototype, a catenary structure that spans four metres in diameter and three metres in height.

The structure, which is Newcastle’s largest ever mycelium knit architecture, demonstrates the design possibilities of a biofabrication system that brings together knitted fabric formwork with mycocrete; a unique formulation of mycelium composite, developed by researchers, and suitable for use as a mycelium render. 

The architecture, situated in a disused shop in Newcastle City Centre, makes BioKnit prototypes using fungal mycelium, the research team mixes mycelium spores with water and cellulose rich substrate materials including sawdust and paper fibres.

This forms a viscous paste that is plastered onto the knitted formwork. 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 formwork is knitted in a 3D shape and the structure is suspended. As the mycelium grows, it binds the substrates together and transforms the soft flexible knitted textile into a rigid biocomposite.  

Dr Jane Scott with the BioKnit prototype. Photograph by Professor Ben Bridgens

'A hugely ambitious project'

Dr Jane Scott, Newcastle University Academic Track Fellow (NUAcT) in the Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment, said: “This [Growing Room] is a hugely ambitious biofabrication project that really begins to demonstrate how mycelium textile composites will redefine our experience of architectural space.

“The scale of the structure is really impressive, with three-metre-high columns and different sized archways to explore. Working on such an unusual project in Newcastle City Centre has sparked some curiosity from the public, and we are very interested to see how people respond to the look and feel of Growing Room during the Science Festival in Edinburgh.” 

Future architecture

Growing Room is part of a programme of research by the Living Textiles Research Group in the HBBE  which is exploring a biological, sustainable and local future for construction.

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. 

Growing Room will be exhibited as part of the Edinburgh Science Festival at the National Museum of Scotland (30th March -14th April). 

Press release adapted with thanks to the Edinburgh Science Festival.


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