Author : Natalie Alima

University : Institute of Advanced Architecture

Status : MArch, 2015

Advisor : Marcos Cruz

Title : Bio Scaffold | The Architecture of decay

Architecture today is seen as something static and unresponsive. However, it is time to take a hint from biology and allow our buildings to grow, adapt and self-repair. With a strong focus on mycelium, I have created an algorithmic bio scaffold, which will choreograph the growth and decay of this organic material. Sourcing inspiration from the medical industry and tissue engineering, this bio scaffold fuses both digital fabrication and biology.

By studying the characteristics of mycelium through a previous research project, I discovered that fungus absorbs nutrients through its cell walls. Therefore, this 3d printed wooden form was seeded with mycelium cells in order to encourage the degradation of its external walls.

However, in order to control and choreograph the growth of the mycelium, a gradient of scale, porosity and materiality was implemented in order to control this fossilisation process.

For structural purposes, the lower half of the scaffold is comprised of larger perforated pipes. In order to encourage the growth of the mycelium, the perforations will allow the mycelium to successfully degrade the scaffold at a faster rate. The mycelium mixture was inserted through a syringe and then incubated.

The mycelium mixture was inserted through a syringe and then incubated. The top half of the scaffold is more dense and contain fewer pores with its external walls. This was strategically designed in order to slow down the growth of the mycelium and prolong the lifespan of the upper scaffold. A mixture of mycelium cells and water was infused into the structure in order to minimise excess weight to the scaffold. This sense of controlling the fossilisation process of the scaffold was further achieved through materiality. In order to prevent the growth of the mycelium, sections of the scaffold were printed in PLA, as the mycelium is unable to disintegrate this plastic material. However, in order to encourage degradation, sections of the scaffold are printed in the wooden filament and are extremely pores.

In order to apply this concept of biodegradability to an architectural context, the final form was printed at a 1:1 scale as a table. After conducting various structural tests to the material, it was discovered that the mycelium block Works best in compression rather than in tension. Therefore, in order to utilise the structural features of the mycelium, the table is able to withstand any external pressure that is applied it its surface. This formula will in turn be applied to a larger scale in the future  and this concept of biodegradable architecture, will hopefully be part of our future cities.