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Myco/Urbanism, 2022

Mycelium Species, Grow.Bio, PFPE Oils, etc. Dimensions Variables

*Harvard MDE Team - Jiwon Woo, Rebecca Brand, Tomoyo Onishi, Trent Tepool


In the face of climate change, how can we promote urban-nature cooperation? How do we better support our cities? The next best answer might be growing just beneath our feet. Our project makes the case for myco/urbanism: a future city planning & design system that employs symbiotic mycoremediation for urban resilience. Given our research, we think this approach could make soil remediation more efficient, limit environmental disruption, support biodiverse soil and tree growth – which in turn can improve carbon sequestration – and overall promote a circular city. A new “Fungal Task Force” becomes a paradigm shift in urban governance and environmental stewardship. 

We conducted multiple experiments to inform this design-focused, proof of concept. Spanning two weeks, our own mycoremediation experiment in the Biology Active Learning Lab was inconclusive, while fortunately, the scientific literature supports the feasibility of mycoremediation. We did, however, receive positive results from our efforts to model mycelium growth. In the Aizenberg Lab, we set up over a dozen 6”x6” grids and individual plates to survey Grow.Bio, a commercially available mycelium substrate, as it encountered potential nutrients and pollutants. We then scaled the box experiments to a 2’x2’ grid system, where each quadrant proposed a new configuration of mycelium nodes, nutrients, and pollutants. 


Our agent-based model extrapolates the structure and rules of our main prototype to simulate growth patterns over a more extended period of time. It speaks to the predictive and speculative aspects of our design system. But why stop at this mezzo scale? Nascent research in organic computing also suggests the potential for fungi to act as future biosensors. Rather than relying on widespread soil sampling or predictive modeling, imagine a world in which we can “speak with” mycelium – their signals could become visual markers of ecosystem health on a macro scale. One day, mycelium could become distributed, regenerative, and sensible infrastructure. As we rewild an urbanized planet, could the future city run on fungi? Our design proposal for mycourbanism forages for these possibilities.


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