There’s a fungus among us—and it could invade our homes. But that’s nothing to worry about.
K5 Furniture in Melbourne commissioned the design department at nearby Monash University to craft furnishings from fungus as part of the company’s push to create inventive sustainable goods made in Australia. The result? Phenomenal Fungi, a collection of lighting fixtures, wall tiles and space dividers crafted from mycelium, the subterranean network of single-cell fungal threads that grow into mushrooms.
Don’t expect to see shroom caps dotting these 100% biodegradable objects. They do, however, have a decidedly organic look that reflects mycelium’s varying hues and textures.
“Most of the time, they feel velvety,” Gyungju Chyon, director of spatial design at Monash and lead on the project, said of the items, speaking in an email interview. “Some of them feel like human skin, and some feel leathery.”
The eight-piece Phenomenal Fungi collection made the longlist in the consumer sustainable design category for the 2023 Dezeen Awards, run by online architecture and design magazine Dezeen. Winners will be announced in November.
To create the prototypes, the interdisciplinary Monash team mixed mycelium spawn with organic waste the fungi could use as nutrients: rice husks, charcoal, wood chips, used coffee grounds and discarded textiles. They cultivated the mycelium in a lab in temperatures between 68 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
“One of the exciting characteristics of mycelium is that the texture and colors vary depending on their growing temperature and substrates,” said Chyon, whose work explores the relationship between design and the environment, with an emphasis on natural, living materials.