Term: Fall 2023
Section: 2
Class Number: 509
Credits: 3
Required: No
Elective: Yes
Course Brief

/ ARCH 509

Biomaterials for Designers

A common definition of a biomaterial is a material that is derived from, or produced by, biological organisms like plants, animals, bacteria, fungi and other life forms. Just because a material is bio, doesn’t necessarily make it sustainable. Wood, one of the most common biomaterials, can be sustainably produced, but will vary greatly depending on its type, how and where its grown and how its harvested. So we are not only interested in working with various biomaterials, but also understanding their provenance. We want to work with material(s) in ways that are not harmful, and even beneficial to the environment.

Two materials of interest in this course will be mycelium and hemp. Mycelium is the name given to the underground network of hyphae (single celled strands) that compose the living body of a fungi organism, the fruiting element of which is the mushroom. Think of an apple’s relationship to an apple tree – the tree being analogous in form and purpose to mycelium, the apple being the mushroom (the fruiting body which delivers the seed (spore)). Fungi are often called the ‘3rd Kingdom.’ This is because they don’t conduct photosynthesis, like plants, to survive. They are a c tually more like mammals in that they excrete an enzyme, like our stomachs do, that causes decay in plant matter so they can feed on it. As they feed, the hyphae form a dense network of material that binds to any substrate creating a matter whose closest synthetic equivalent is expanded polystyrene or EPS foam, commonly known as styrofoam. A finished mycelium block is, actually, surprisingly like EPS in both feel, workability, insulative capacity and structural characteristics and offers up and excellent sustainable alternative to that widely used petroleum based product.


Tue 1:00-4:00pm  2210 A&AB


Glenn Wilcox