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Salone del Mobile 2019: Carlo Ratti builds arches made from mushroom

In Milan’s verdant Orto Botanico di Brera garden, a strange kind of plant has taken root. Mushrooms, more specifically the root spore of mushrooms called mycelium, have sprouted into a series of arches that turn the garden into a whimsical wonderland of biomaterials.

Architect and MIT professor Carlo Ratti designed the recyclable installation called “The Circular Garden” for this year’s Salone de Mobile as an exploration of how mycelium can be used in architecture. Ratti is far from the first to use the wonder material—see David Benjamin’s spectacular mushroom tower from MoMA PS1’s emerging architects program—though his interpretation is impressive in its form and process.


Photo: Marco Beck Peccoz

With help of Krown.Bio Lab, Ratti and his team grew more than a kilometer of mycelium in just two months. Ratti then bent the material into a series of 13-foot arches that are stabilized and tied together with rope.


Arches in front of large brick house
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Photo: Marco Beck Peccoz


Arches at night
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Photo: Marco Beck Peccoz

The installation is decidedly low-tech in its materiality, but it hints at a future when buildings can be programmed on a cellular level.

“What if tomorrow we might be able to program matter to ‘grow a houselike a plant?” Ratti said to ArchDaily. It’s a provocative question that is still far from having a practical answer. But for the time being, a fully recyclable installation is impressive by itself.


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