What If a Mushroom Designed Your Kitchen? What If a Mushroom Designed Your Kitchen?

What If a Mushroom Designed Your Kitchen?

by Nick Sowers

March 19, 2011

The first proposal is the "Shiitake Cabinet," a temperature- and humidity-controlled container which inserts into a standard array of cabinets and drawers. The entire unit can be pulled out to load shiitake-inoculated hardwood logs in the rear. One must be patient in growing shiitake mushrooms (six to eight months or more to yield fruiting bodies is typical). So the cabinet can hold several logs which might be at varying stages in the fruiting process, guaranteeing a year-round supply of mushrooms.

The second concept is the "Oyster Pocket Slider," which is a special pocket door that can be embedded in any wall. Mushrooms enjoy darkness (although some indirect light is good), so the slider should be hidden most of the time. Oyster mushrooms also like to grow out of a combination of straw and compost (you could add coffee grinds to the substrate), kept moist within a perforated plastic enclosure. The sliding door holds the substrate in place and when pulled out, allows for easy harvesting.

The final mushroom-kitchen adaptation calls for a "Misty Morel Wall," designed for the most serious mycologist and fungi-devourer. Moisture is seeped from "misting gills" at the top and percolates down to the bottom. The irregular-shaped cavities provide mushrooms with spaces that provide their own ideal amounts of shade, moisture, and air circulation—all of which will vary considerably depending on the cavity's depth and position in the wall.

Perhaps the greatest challenge with designing for a living system is allowing that system to expand according to its own rules. That said, the kitchens we are familiar with today are built for the opposite purpose: to contain the unpredictability of organic things and provide us with the technology to arrest their natural processes of growth and decay. The task in designing a kitchen around food is to balance a modicum of human control with the food's desire to adapt to its own micro-ecosystem.

To be continued...

Nick Sowers is a Bay Area-based architect. Read more of his writing at his blog, Soundscrapers, and follow him on Twitter @soundscrapers.

All drawings by Nick Sowers.

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What If a Mushroom Designed Your Kitchen?