MoMA/P.S.1 Winner Puts the Fun in Fungi

By William Hanley
February 5, 2014

The Museum of Modern Art’s contemporary art space, MoMA/P.S.1, announced today that the winner of this year’s Young Architects Program commission will rise with the help of a kind of architectural huitlacoche.

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The winning proposal, designed by New York firm The Living (helmed by David Benjamin, a director at Columbia University's Living Architecture Lab), calls for a cluster of towers built inside the courtyard at MoMA/P.S.1, a former public school in Queens, New York. The structure, titled Hy-Fi, will be made from components that combine corn stalks with mycelium, a root material in fungus that grows into mushrooms. Both ingredients will be mixed inside rectangular forms and, in a process developed with the New York materials company Ecovative, grow and solidify into bricks.

The biologically engineered building blocks will be stacked into three hollow towers. The design shows them conjoined at the base and twisting around one another as they ascend like tubular sea sponges. The brick molds will be made from a mirror film developed by 3M for daylighting applications, and once the bricks are finished growing, the forms will be repurposed as reflective crowns at the top of the cylinders.

The installation will occupy the courtyard at MoMA/P.S.1 throughout the summer and provide a backdrop for the museum’s weekend series of frequently thronged Warm-Up parties. The towers are designed to cast shade for revelers and to offer a refuge from the summer heat, using the stack effect created by the chimney-like forms to cool the interior.

While Ecovative has used mushroom-based materials for packaging, building insulation, and other products, the MoMA/P.S.1 installation will be its first structural application. When the summer ends, the firm plans to recycle most of the towers and to ship the mirrored brick forms back to 3M. “This year’s YAP winning project bears no small feat,” said Pedro Gadanho, curator in MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design, in today’s announcement. “It is the first sizable structure to claim near-zero carbon emissions in its construction process and, beyond recycling, it presents itself as being 100% compostable.”


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