Grotesque Bubble
Manifold Destiny: Mushroom Terrarium Design
289 Technology Seminar Fall 2007
Instructor: Jason Payne
Collaborators: Katerina Arroyo, Eun Kim, Kristin Wiley

Given the growing discourse on conceptual and material plasticity in contemporary design, this course investigated new techniques in plastic formation and assembly. Working with the hypothesis that architectural tectonics contain inadequate logics for the interconnection of plastic surfaces, the course looked to the vegetative realm to derive tectonics more attuned to the material dynamics of plastic. In conjunction with this ambition, students were required to incorporate the program of a terrarium to sustain the growth of mushrooms. Factors of tectonic innovation, programmatic specificity, and atmosphere had to work in a delicate balance in a plastic prototype.

Working in small groups, students began by researching connection techniques derived from botanical illustrations. Our group selected the Lion’s Mane mushroom as the variety to grow, and we took inspiration from the form of this mushroom itself, basing our design upon ideas about the grotesque. The substrate container, for example, designed as a mouth to reveal the mushrooms, spews an unattractive fungus. Mechanical equipment and water bubbles generated by the humidity pump are deliberately exposed through the clear plastic trunk, contributing to the object’s anthropomorphic quality.

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