By Chere Di Boscio
It’s usually only garden gnomes and Disney characters we see sitting comfortably on toadstools, but Dutch designer Eric Klarenbeek has recently made mushroom-based furniture a very possible choice for real-life people.
No, we’re not tripping: his latest project, the Mycelium Chair, blends 3-D printing technology with old-school biology to create one mind-blowing piece of furniture.
The chair resembles an organic life form like coral, but its frame is actually comprised of corn-based bioplastic created on a 3D printer. Straw pellets fill the hollows of the structure, and a solution of liquified starter spores is dripped inside.
For five days, the eukaroytes feed off the nutrients in the straw and expand through the space between the straw and the bioplastic frame, behaving like a kind of glue that makes the chair super sturdy. Tiny holes on the surface allow mushrooms to sprout up and construct a unique, completely natural and quite comfortable ‘upholstery.’
It may seem pretty simple to grow your own mushroom chair, and perhaps today it is, but it wasn’t always thus. Klarenbeck admits there were several disasters, including burning 3D printers and exploding bottles, but there was a happy accident too, when some spores infiltrated a bag straw and rapidly transformed it into an organic brick, sparking the designer into a ‘Eureka’ moment that led to the eventual creation of his chair.
But why stop at chairs? The Mycelium concept could go far beyond that: the straw and mushroom blend has potential to replace toxic styrofoam peanuts and bricks that surround electronics and other fragile shipped items, for example.
In fact, Ecovative Design, is already producing everything from packaging to surfboards based on Klarenbeek ‘s concept. But the designer wants to go further still–he believes this technology could work in house construction and beyond.
Far out, man, indeed.