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Honoring a Fungus Towering Among Us

Thursday, July 3, 2014

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An organic building "that grows out of nothing but earth and returns to nothing but earth" has positioned its young architect on the doorstep of tomorrow's architecture.

The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 have selected The Living (David Benjamin) as the winner of the annual Young Architects Program in New York. Benjamin's work, Hy-Fi, is a three-cylinder tower made of reflective and organic bricks.

Kris Graves / MoMA

The compostable tower is built entirely of reflective and organic bricks. Everything from the project, throughout its life cycle, comes from a 150-mile radius, the architect says. likened the structure to the "intersection of three arteriesblown up a few thousand times."

Growing a Building

The organic bricks are made of a combination of agricultural waste (corn stalks) and mushroom roots. The mixture is formed, then hardens for several days into a solid. The process uses no energy and generates no carbon emissions.

"Essentially, the architects channel the 'biological algorithm' of mushroom roots to grow a building from the ground up," reports the Huffington Post. "The entire growing process takes around five days."

The reflective bricks are produced through the custom-forming of a new daylighting mirror film invented by 3M, according to MoMA PS1.

MoMA rendering

Hy-Fi will provide shelter and shade at the 2014 Warm Up music series in Long Island City.

"The reflective bricks are used as growing trays for the organic bricks, and then they are incorporated into the final construction before being shipped back to 3M for use in further research," the group says.

"The organic bricks are arranged at the bottom of the structure and the reflective bricks are arranged at the top to bounce light down on the towers and the ground."

Computation and Collaboration

The award-winning material was originally developed by Ecovative Design as an insulation material. With  "cutting-edge computation and engineering," Ecovative and The Living collaborated to develop the building material, according to MoMA PS1.

A short video by The Creative Project offers a look behind the development and installation of the mushroom tower.

The tower was just erected as a temporary installation in Long Island City and will provide a sheltering backdrop for MoMA PS1's 2014 Warm Up summer music series until Sept. 6. After that, the whole structure will be composted and used for community gardens.

Firsts and Finalists

The Living's tower "is the first sizable structure to claim near-zero carbon emissions in its construction process and, beyond recycling, it presents itself as being 100% compostable,” said Pedro Gadanho, curator in MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design.

The structure "reinvents the most basic component of architecture—the brick—as both a material of the future and a classic trigger for open-ended design possibilities," said Gadanho, who called the tower "sensuous" and "primeval."

The other finalists for this year’s MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program were Collective-LOK, LAMAS, Pita + Bloom , and Fake Industries Architectural Agonism (Cristina Goberna and Urtzi Grau). An exhibit of the five finalists' projects will be on view at MoMA over the summer.


Tagged categories: Architects; Awards and honors; Bio-based materials; Color + Design; Green building

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