Arup is providing structural engineering for the first mushroom brick tower. The concept for Hy-Fi, designed by The Living, won MoMA’s Young Architects Program and was chosen to be displayed in the courtyard of MoMA PS1 in Queens, New York. 

The bricks are made from microscopic, fibrous fungi bound to agricultural waste; in layman’s terms, a tower made almost entirely out of mushrooms. The Living’s inspiration originally sprung from Ecovative, a manufacturing company founded to develop alternate uses for the mushroom mycelium. Mycelium, when bound to agricultural waste, creates a strong, resilient matrix that can be moulded into any shape. With the Ecovative-grown mushroom brick in hand, The Living approached Arup to explore how tall they could build their mushroom tower.

Arup collaborated with The Living to provide structural engineering services for the project from conception to construction. Although the material would later undergo testing at the Columbia University Lab, the first test was if the brick could hold up, literally. In a sophisticated manoeuvre, the brick’s strength was tested and eventually given the go ahead after it withstood the weight of a structural engineer. From the results following this test, engineers calculated that the design would remain structurally sound at 40ft.

The next step was a discussion of shape. With the memories of Hurricane Sandy still fresh in the minds of New Yorkers, the engineers knew that the structure would require a wide base to withstand the wind. Instead of one stand-alone chimney, three would be woven together. The resulting structure can resist over 65mph gusts. Although the bricks can carry this force on their own, the scaffolding planks are remaining in place to limit the amount of movement in the wind.

The final structure comprises 10,000 organically grown bricks that easily carry their weight to the 40ft height. The collaboration shows that biological technology as a discipline, with a carbon footprint of nearly zero, can be a factor in today’s construction market.

Hy-Fi opens to the public on June 27 and remains open in the MoMA PS1 courtyard through September 6.