TU Berlin: Spend A Night in a Fungal Dwelling
The interdisciplinary art and science collective MY-CO-X has built a fungal sculpture using materials that are resource efficient and recyclable.
Over several months, the scientists, artists, designers, and architects in the collective collaborated to create MY-CO SPACE, an inhabitable fungal-based structure in Frankfurt’s Metzlerpark. Serving as a contribution towards utopias which center sustainable and resource-efficient life, the fungal sculpture is open to the public during the day and is even available for overnight stays. The sculpture is the product of a project conducted by the ArtSci collective MY-CO-X, founded by professor of biotechnology Vera Meyer (Technische Universität Berlin) and professor of architecture Sven Pfeiffer (Bochum University of Applied Sciences).
Their team is taking part in the “tinyBE” exhibition series held in public spaces in Frankfurt, Darmstadt and Wiesbaden through 26 September 2021. The series will present nine habitable sculptures created by artists from Germany and abroad. A digital panel discussion with Vera Meyer and Sven Pfeiffer is taking place on 19 July 2021 in Frankfurt.
Mutations in Urban Processes: Fungi as Societal Agent and Provider of Ideas
A panel discussion
When: Monday, 19 July 2021, from 19:00 to 21:00
Where: Panel talk, Villa 102, Frankfurt (digital)
Inspired by space capsules, MY-CO SPACE is a completely plant-based space made of wood, straw, and fungi. The wooden construction with fungal panels offers a living space of approximately 20 square meters, while the outer shell is constructed from biotechnologically grown fungal-straw composites and is therefore completely biodegradable. Vera Meyer views the sculptural habitat as a physical representation of the challenges humanity currently faces: „How can biological-technical structures and essential living functions be integrated in the smallest possible space in such a way that people can still live and work carefree under conditions of limited resources?“ The structure pays homage to the work of architect Galina Balashova (born 1931), who was responsible for the interior design of the manned spacecraft Soyuz and the Mir space station and additionally involved in the Apollo-Soyuz program. The non-profit platform tinyBE, which organized the exhibition „tinyBE – living in a sculpture,“ facilitates public interdisciplinary dialogue at the interface of visual arts, architecture, design and science and examines new, alternative, and sustainable forms of living and working in a way that is tangible to its audience.
MY-CO-X members and idea
The interdisciplinary exchange between scientists, designers, architects, and artists was a motivating factor to participate in the MY-CO SPACE collaborative project. In the project, professors, research associates, students, and citizen scientists come together to demonstrate how biomaterials can be used to initiate new circular economies and thus counteract the planetary scarcity of resources in a range of industries including packaging, textile and construction with building or insulating materials. Fungal materials are particularly suitable for this endeavor as they are not only a renewable resource but also fully biodegradable.
„As microbiologists we generally only work at a very small scale. Suddenly needing to produce 20 to 30 square meters of fungal-based materials was a big task,“ says Lisa Stelzer, a student in TU Berlin’s Chair of Applied and Molecular Microbiology headed by Professor. Dr.-Ing. Vera Meyer. Stelzer is also co-founder of the TU start-up „fungtion,“ which conducts research into bicycle helmets made out of fungal materials. Through its scientific and artistic research, the MY-CO-X collective aims to contribute to a better, more sustainable future, develop new fungal materials together, and identify areas of use for these. „Nature shows us how to do this every day,“ says Kustrim Cerimi, a biotechnology doctoral candidate. „Symbiotic systems between flora, fauna, bacteria, and fungi are the foundation for the largest circular system in the world. No biomass is wasted and everything finds its way back to nature.“
Professor Dr. Vera Meyer, a biotechnologist and microbiologist who also works as an artist under the name „V. meer,“ adds: Our aim is nothing less than to completely rethink questions such as: How do we want to live in the future? What is like to live with limited resources? Is an unencumbered life possible? Can we imagine living in fungi, in materials made of renewable and recyclable fungal resources?“ The limits to what we can do with fungi are endless: medication, enzymes, biofuels, packaging materials, furniture, and even homes of the future.
Co-founder of the MY-CO-X collective Professor Dipl.-Ing. Sven Pfeiffer, who teaches digital design, planning, and building in Bochum adds: „We urgently need to think about new materials to build with, especially those that can be recycled after use. As natural biomaterials, fungi hold great potential for the circular economy.“
Fungal biotechnology and its potential
Fungi are ubiquitous. They are in our food, in wine and cheese. They are on our skin, inside our bodies, and scattered across the world in soil and plants. Biotechnology has long used them as cell factories in the production of antibiotics, cholesterol sinkers, insulin, vitamins, enzymes, biofuels and much more besides. „Fungi may be microorganisms but some types of fungi are among the largest living organisms on Earth,“ says Meyer, who was also selected as one of the „Köpfe des Wandels“ (minds for change) within the framework of the year of science on the topic of bioeconomy. “Without fungi, many natural cycles simply would not be possible. They possess unique abilities.“ In a sense they are nature’s garbage disposal, masters in the art of biomass decomposition, and are able to break down complex renewable plant raw materials into their constituent parts using active enzymes, especially those occurring in agriculture and forestry. But they also excel at synthesis, meaning they can combine and reassemble these components for a wide range of products. „As such, they not only offer us a unique opportunity to create a new, completely bio-based economy based on the principles of the circular economy and sustainability. They also have the potential to teach us something about symbioses and how societies function.”
You can find information and videos about the making of the sculpture and the microbiological technology behind the art project at:
If you are interested in spending a night in MY-CO SPACE, go to:
Further information is available from:
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Vera MeyerTechnische Universität Berlin
Faculty III Process SciencesChair of Applied and Molecular Biology