Back to dirt - A bio-inclusive process with mycelium
Back to dirt is an interdisciplinary research project by the experimental design & material research studio Aléa, proposing a new, more integrated myco-fabrication process.
Myco-fabrication utilises the growth of mycelium, the root structure of fungi, to create materials from organic waste. Back to dirt expands on this process by exploring the use of local soil as a mould to grow objects.
With the goal to reimagine processes of fabrication that are regenerative, Back to dirt recognises an opportunity in the disconnect between mycelium’s use in design and its capacity in the ecosystem.
Myco-fabrication allows for the creation of bio-circular materials and presents a promising alternative to traditional industrial fabrication methods. However, the process takes place in a sterile lab to avoid contamination, while in its natural environment the organism thrives on the diversity of its interrelationships. It is in this disparity that we lose the opportunity to co-benefit in our manufacturing processes.
The project looks to expand on the current trajectory of myco-fabrication proposing a bio-fabrication method that instead of isolating the organism from its environment, embraces its interrelationships. Using soil as a mould, the mycelium not only assembles the substrates but expands beyond the mould, continuing to thrive even after the objects are harvested. This unique process allows to bypass existing myco-fabrication steps, such as sterilisation, additional energy and plastic moulds while exploring the mycelium’s capacity to regenerate soils and reintroduce biodiversity.
Thanks to the Boisbuchet Residency Award in 2021 Aléa had the opportunity to bring the lab to nature for one week. It was here that Miriam Josi and Stella Lee Prowse applied their reimagined process at full scale and revealed the first underground myco-fabricated chair, allowing us to rethink the factory to one that is regenerative, uses local waste as a resource, and growth as a process.
This ongoing research is supported by FAIRE Paris.
Made in Soil is a collaboration with Carole Collet (Living Systems Lab) expanding on this new myco-fabrication process and exploring textiles as a means to create a soft digestive mould hosted in the soil to control and harvest mycelium-grown artefacts at ambient temperature. By integrating a range of fabric manipulation techniques, they have explored the potential of textiles as a skin interface to mediate and guide the morphology of mycelium. The result is a series of miniature chair prototypes grown in soil.
Text submitted by the maker
Pleurotus mycelium, paper waste, reclaimed textiles (cotton, denim, cotton organza, pineapple linen), soil
Aléa, Carole Collet (Living Systems Lab), Domaine de Boisbuchet, Ensci les Ateliers, FAIRE, Pavillon d'Arsenal, City of Paris, MINI, Caisse des dépôts, EDF
Aléa (Miriam Josi & Stella Lee Prowse)