Impermanent Urbanism: Biodegradable design for sustainable development

Current and past methods of construction look to a monumental, monolithic view of architecture. One that seeks out physical permanence, with an expectation to remain for generations. But why? By definition, sustainability does not equal permanence, yet architecture continues to strive for longevity. We design for such ideals but cannot second guess future change. Society, functions and technologies continue to evolve, and so should our structures. I propose a concept for the city as an interconnected, ephemeral and ever-changing network, one where sites appear and disappear whilst positively impacting a city’s sustainability. 

Mycelium, the highly resilient, vegetative part of a fungus can break down natural and inorganic matter, and be formed into a lightweight, well-insulating building material. As an organic, biodegradable substance, the short lifespan of mycelium can facilitate sustainable urban development through a closed loop system of degradation and perpetual material growth. This thesis, ‘Impermanent Urbanism: Biodegradable design for sustainable development’, seeks to explore the potential of temporal structures as a catalyst for brownfield development, with the architecture seen as a gateway to a more environmentally sustainable future. 

Impermanent Urbanism looks to tackle such issues in three interrelated scales. At the micro scale, two mycelium structural applications are considered. At the meso scale, a changeable farm for mycelium growth acts as a nucleus for the network; a distributor of sustainable matter for use in both construction and bioremediation. Finally, the macro scale considers the wider network of brownfield sites in which the grown mycelium material will be applied. The final building proposal considers the mycelium farm, or network nucleus, on the meso scale and the unique process of waste input to material growth. The concept of temporal architecture manifests itself to the built form, where stages of development are considered parts of a perpetual cycle.