“As we continue our collective quest for a more responsive ‘living’ architecture, we will increasingly blur the boundaries between the worlds of the natural and the artificial. What if tomorrow we might be able to program matter to ‘grow a house’ like a plant?”Carlo Ratti
The installation, called “The Circular Garden,” was grown from soil over six weeks. It was composed of a series of arches, adding up to a record 1-kilometer-long mycelium, and experiments with sustainable structures that can grow organically and then return to nature in a fully circular way.
In order to create self-supporting mycelium structures on such a scale, the project takes inspiration from the great Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. It was he, while designing the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, who resurrected the “inverted catenary” method pioneered in the 18th-century by polymath Giovanni Poleni. According to this method, the best way to create pure compression structures is to find their form using suspended catenaries and then invert them. The same applies to the Circular Garden, where the catenaries compose a series of four architectural “open rooms” scattered throughout the garden.
The mycelium was grown in the two months preceding the opening of the exhibition. Spores were injected into organic material to start the growth process. In a similarly organic manner, all the mycelium was shredded at the end of Milan Design Week and went back to the soil, in a circular way. The cycle is similar to what has happened since ancient times in small town or city gardens, through the production of food and the composting of organic waste.