The last few years have seen a huge advance in biobased materials. Which is not surprising, because they are CO2 neutral, a perfect match for a circular economy and they sometimes even affect climate change positively. Designers are finding all sorts of creative ways to use biobased materials for a large variety of projects. Biowaste like pine needles and coffee grounds are converted into other raw materials, but use is also made of living materials. This focus on living natural materials can also be seen at DDW19, which is why the second trend is: Growing Design.
Mycelium as a growing material
The first aspect of this trend is the use of growing materials. One of the most remarkable materials is mycelium. Mycelium is the network of all fungal threads. After the fungus itself has been rendered inactive, a fine mesh remains. This might be slightly unappetising at first glance, but mycelium has many applications. It is extremely light, but also very strong. This makes it very suitable as a building material.
Many designers think of biobased materials as the raw material of the future. As do Nieuwe Helden. They consider organic material to be the bricks and mortar of the future. Previously, the Ketelhuisplein accommodated the People’s Pavilion by Overtreders W, which won several awards. At the time, the pavilion fully consisted of borrowed materials. They were returned to their original owners unscathed. This year the Growing Pavilion stands in the same spot. This structure is 100% organic, fully constructed from biobased materials with an important role for the growing mycelium. The iconic building work is an experiment for future developments.
Tom Veeger supplements this idea with a pavilion that is fully constructed from mycelium. By scaling up material research and application in a real construction, he hopes to collect new knowledge of the possibilities of this material. He wraps the mycelium in two sheets of transparent foil. This protects it against dampness and makes it possible to vacuum-wrap the mycelium. Vacuum-wrapping creates an even sturdier material, suitable for building, even without an extra load-bearing structure.
Growing material is the future. Designer Bob Hendrikx agrees. He foresees a future with us all living in mycelium houses. Our current building methods have to change drastically to solve the current problems. Hendrikx finds the solution to this in nature and the strength of growing plants. Mycelium does not just have great bearing strength, it is also an important part of the natural ecosystem. More than 92% of all plants get nutrients from mycelium. In addition, it is a kind of ‘natural internet’ connecting all living organisms. In Hendrikx’ vision of the future, the use of mycelium brings humans and nature closer together in living architecture. People living in a house have to maintain and continue to feed the house to extend its life. Humans become part of the natural ecosystem again.
Nature = life and death
Nature can also extend people’s lives. In traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng is considered to be an anti-ageing remedy. In nature, the root grows under extreme circumstances, allegedly making it more potent than the cultivated version. So, the wild ginseng is greatly favoured, resulting in the near eradication of the wild root. Artist and designer Kuang-Yi Ku started the Millennium Ginseng Project to build a bridge between the protection of ecology and the cultural values of the Asian tradition. Together with scientists he devised an ‘Extreme Greenhouse’ where ginseng’s natural growth conditions are simulated and amplified. This leaves the natural ecosystem unaffected. It is the first part of the three-part project. Ginseng may delay the ageing process, but eventually our body will stop living, just like any other growing organism. But how do we deal with our end?
Burying your body after has enormous impact on the environment. Every year, 178 tonnes of CO2 are released in the burial industry, from cutting down trees for the coffin to the manufacture of nails and the creation of cemeteries. Designer Charde Brouwer provides a responsible alternative. Her project Afterlife consist of a fully biodegradable material that can be used for making clothes. The material is created from waste material from the food industry and is dyed with flowers. This clothing, in combination with our own body, provides nutrition for plants to grow. This is how our end also can be a new beginning.