Luke Warren (MArch I 2022) with Hangsoo Jeong (MArch I 2022), Aditi Agarwal (MDes 2020) & Victoria Patricia Lopez Cabeza (MDes 2020)
SCI 6126 Materials, Jonathan Grinham, Spring 2019
A seat grown from mycelium—the vegetative root structure of fungus, soft and spongy—rests on three slender walnut legs.
From the beginning, we wanted to accentuate the contrast between the mycelium seat and the walnut legs, both in terms of their materiality—light/dark, soft/hard, living/dead—but also in terms of their construction—grown/machined, additive/subtractive, loose/precise.
To support the mycelium seat, we needed a hidden, structural piece of plywood to hold the stool together. The idea was that the piece would both connect the legs and act as a lattice for the mycelium to grow in and around.
We CNC-routed 3/4″ Baltic birch plywood to cut the circular shape and the large holes for the structural lattice. But because we wanted the stool’s legs to sit at an angle other than 90, we needed to drill the holes to receive them by hand. To hold the piece at the correct angle, we made a jig out of scrap plywood using the table saw, and then used the drill press to make the three holes.
We used stock 1″ walnut dowels for legs, but in order to produce the desired taper, we used the lathe to turn the legs. Each leg was cut down to length using the miter saw and then individually shaped. After the stool was assembled, we applied low-VOC varnish to bring out the walnut’s grain, enrich its color, and protect it from moisture.
The legs were inserted into the drilled holes and joined with wood glue. Due to the stock sizes of the purchased materials, it ended up being more efficient, and only marginally more work, to make two stools (six legs out of three 36″ dowels, two seats out of one 24″ x 30″ sheet of plywood).
To mold the mycelium, we used potting soil in a recycled cardboard box with a plastic liner to keep it clean. As opposed to the relatively precise legs, we only roughly shaped the outline of a circle using our hands and a cut chipboard guide so that each seat took on a slightly different form. After adding water, the mycelium grew in a mix of corn and hemp by-product over the course of five days. As it grew, it bound this waste material together and concealed the construction of the stool.
The emphasis of the course was on the environmental implications of architectural materials, and so the stool was designed to be constructed out of renewable materials, and, at the end of stool’s life, to be compostable and bio-degradable—including the soil mold.