Gen2Seat: Genetic Generation Seat


For almost ten years our group has been prototyping with living materials made from the dendritic microstructures commonly found in  mushrooms. Many have appropriated our work in various forms. This research characterizes seminal explorations for the use of live mycelium in architectural and industrial design applications. The current iterations focus on known limitations of this material applied to complex parametrically driven formwork. Located throughout this research are studies that introduce new methods of growth control of mycelium in combination with other biomaterials such as acetobacter bacteria. We are not making simple bricks, but compound geometries mixed with novel biopolymers. The computational systems deployed in the process govern and predict the formal behavior and shape of mycelium. The ultimate intention of this biomaterial research is to potentially replace petroleum-based plastics with a metabolic and ecological substance.  

This platform is defined by various operations we can preform with mycelium, the primarily underground fungi threads or hyphae that shape the vegetative part of fungi. We grew the fungus Ganoderma lucidum (or Reishi) into various molds derived from computational output. In many cases architects mimic biological systems, but do not operate in actual wet laboratory conditions. This effort required a close collaboration between biologists and architects to produce synthetic bio design artifacts in conjunction with current digital fabrication techniques.

Applying the tools of synthetic biology, alongside other biological disciplines, such as microbiology and medical tissue engineering, will allow us to create products that are 100% organic, with minimal waste and energy expenditure. Our aim is to use grown materials to reshape the way people think about manufacturing products and genetic engineering.

We have formed the first full-scale laboratory – Genspace - that produced a biological Mycoform module, into a multi-curved mycelium surface. The Mycoform module is grown from naturally occurring and cross-linked microorganisms. This articulated parametric alive system is segmental and can be installed as furniture, interlocking walls, and building insulation systems.

We sought to revamp the creation of Mycoform module to an organic operation where products are not artificially assembled but rather grown. When the Mycoform module has completed its cycle of use it is placed in a garden to feed other organisms.

The internal filler is made up of mycelia substrate, a combination of discarded wood chips, gypsum, oat bran, which is consumed by mycelia and then hardened into a tough, durable functional material. The external skin is bacteria cellulose. The mycelia substrate and bacterial cellulose integrate to become a hard biopolymer that is suitable for architectural applications and the Mycoform module.

What can synthetic biology do for design and vice versa? The emergence of citizen biotech or DIY biology must be seen within the broader context of advanced technologies becoming ever more readily available to individuals and groups. With that availability comes enhanced opportunities to develop new ideas. Thus this project was initiated for the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) conference and more.

We have produced a waste-consuming, pollution-free Mycoform module. Biodesign is a nascent field and this is a step outside of pure theory and into the realm of practical application. Our Mycoform module is not merely an experiment into what is possible, it is the possible. Research, development, efficiency, responsibility and production have all been factors in the creation of this unique biopolymer. 

Media: biopolymer of acetobacter, chitin, mycelium.
Size: 20"x 21"x 14".
Support/ Consultation: Ecovative Design LLC, Suzanne Lee and BioCouture.
Sponsor: NYU Gallatin.

Credits:  Terreform ONE + Genspace, Mitchell Joachim, Oliver Medvedik, Melanie Fessel, Maria Aiolova, Ellen Jorgenson, Shruti Grover, James Schwartz, Josue Ledema, Tania Doles, Philip Weller, Greg Pucillo, Shivina Harjani, Jesse Hull.