Mushroom-based modelling kit allows users to grow their own designs

A sustainable building material made from agricultural byproducts and mushroom mycelium has been nominated for the Design Museum's 2015 Design of the Year award.

Material science company Ecovative has developed Mushroom Materials to provide a natural alternative to traditional plastics and synthetic packaging.

Mushroom Materials by Ecovative

The product contains mycelium, the vegetative part of a mushroom fungus, which is a natural glue. This material binds with crop waste like seed husks and corn stalks to form a bioplastic.

Mushroom Materials by Ecovative

Unlike normal plastics, which are made from petrochemicals, Mushroom Materials are plant-based and fully compostable.

The latest development of the product – a Grow it Yourself kit – allows artists and designers the opportunity to grow their own modelling material.

Mushroom Materials by Ecovative

The kit comes as a small bag of Mushroom Materials, which have been dried so they don't need refrigeration. This dehydration process also means that the product can be packaged and internationally shipped.

Mushroom Materials by Ecovative

To begin growing the material, water is added to rehydrate the product. "This process takes about three to four days," explained Ecovative. "It's kind of like letting dough rise before you shape and bake your loaf of bread."

Once the product is wet, it can then be stored away or placed into custom-designed moulds to grow over several days.

Mushroom Materials by Ecovative

Last year, Mushroom Materials were used by architectural studio The Living to build an organic tower in the courtyard of New York's MoMA PS1 Gallery. The design, featuring circular buildings created entirely from natural materials, was the winning entry in the gallery's 2014 Young Architects Programme.

Hy-Fi by The Living
Hy-Fi by The Living

"Prototyping is a crucial part of our design process," explained The Living principal David Benjamin. "Ecovative GIY was a great way for us to quickly explore options and get a feel for how this amazing new material works."

Mush-Lume table lamp by Danielle Trofe using Mushroom Materials
Mush-Lume table lamp by Danielle Trofe using Mushroom Materials

Other designs made using the material include a table lamp and plant pot by designer Danielle Trofe. The products, named Mush-lume and Mush-bloom respectively, use the mushroom material alongside compressed cork and concrete.

Mush-Bloom pots by Danielle Trofe using Mushroom Materials
Mush-Bloom pots by Danielle Trofe using Mushroom Materials

"The ability to have a hands-on experience with the Mushroom Material, to grow it, to learn its properties and to experiment with its living characteristics, has not only created a much more dynamic prototyping experience, but a more inventive and in-tune approach to material-based product design," said Trofe.

Mush-Lume Hemi Pendant by Danielle Trofe using Mushroom Materials
Mush-Lume Hemi Pendant by Danielle Trofe using Mushroom Materials

Mushroom Materials has also been used to design a biodegradable surfboard by Californian brand Surf Organic, providing an alternative to the popular fibreglass and styrofoam models.

Surfboard by Surf Organics using Mushroom Materials
Surfboard by Surf Organics using Mushroom Materials

Mycelium has previously been used in the creation of a 3D-printed chair, in which the fungus grows inside of the structure to give it strength.