Mycelium is a natural material being used in sustainable design. A Netherlands company is specialising in the use of this material, employing mycelium and computer design to develop 3D-printed urban reefs that will enhance water circularity and biodiversity—allowing all living beings to thrive.

Dutch designers Pierre Oskam and Max Latour conjured this innovative remedy to render cities more biodiverse. It employs the use of natural materials to develop structural ecosystems that can be combined with standing environmental elements (eg. fountains). A 3D printer is utilized to process complex geometrical designs with porous materials such as ceramics and composites (culled from coffee grounds and mycelium). The moisture in the air is able to pass through and cultivate the ideal environment for fungi to grow, thus giving life to structure.

The most usable choice they deal with is ceramics, but as baking it takes a great deal of energy, they are investigating sustainable alternatives, said Latour, and that’s why they’re testing materials culled from coffee and algae. The team has devised two concept products resulting from this research – the first is called “Rain Reef” rain collector, with an undulating shape that broadens the contact area of the water and the possible hatching surface for vegetation and the second is called “Zoo Reef,” an alternative to fountains in metropolitan areas.

Rain Reef is 3D printed with a porous material (manufactured from a mixture of seeds, coffee grounds and mycelium), which is saturated with collected rainwater, rendering it accessible to vegetation being grown outside. The intent is to invent a printable material that is porous, durable, sustainable and bio-receptive. Rain Reef can collect water in large communities where concrete is widely used and rainfall falls in the drain.

Zoo Reef is meant to substitute for fountains in communities. Much promise exists for biodiversity stimulation in the area of urban fountains. Proposed is a complicated labyrinth of spaces that are interconnected. By differentiating in sizes, orientation involving sun, wind and rain, varieties of microclimates would develop, said Oskam.

At Urban Reef, the city is seen as a possible habitat for organisms, not only humans, the duo explained. They intend to attain a vast knowledge of natural processes to both blend those in design methods and design with ecologies in mind.

Rather than deciding where organisms should reside, these Urban Reefs devise a new range of possible habitats. Although still in the initial stages of research and development, Latour and Oskam’s project could be scaled and made useful through real-world applications sometime soon because the technology and materials have been formulated. It’s like a living wall, and a door to a more sustainable future.




Image source: Pierre Oskam and Max Latour