Be there or be square...
We get the mycelium bricks from John Verbrugge, who is one of the biggest mushroom farmers in the Netherlands. His bricks are sized 30 x 50 x 15 cm, so we already have a shape we have to work with. All bricks are the same size, even though they have different mushrooms species inside. It was quite obvious that we could try to make a square tower because the bricks are rectangular. If you put them in the right order you can easily create a square tower, and you don't have to do anything with the bricks. Also, the square is very common in architecture, so it seemed like a logical choice.
But it turned out, if one side is weaker (not all mycelium bricks are as strong) or if you don't build it perfectly in balance: the tower will eventually collapse. When the tower starts to lean in one direction, there is more weight on this side, which weakens it even more and the collapse gets even worse. We learnt the hard way with one tower in the Clean Lab, which collapsed after no more than 2-days. Thankfully it was against the wall so it still looked ok, but without any structural support there was no chance to go higher.
Because you are not, a-round
For the next try-out we thought of a strong shape that can be found in nature, and that is also commonly used in architecture: The circle. This brought us to the next challenge: How can we go from this rectangular shape to a circular shape?
We found out that the bricks are quite soft and that you can bend them or even squeeze one side together. You have one long side and one shorter side so you should be able to get a trapezoid. You don't have to bend it a lot, but with each break, you get a little bit of an angle with which we created a circle. We used about 14 bricks for one layer, so it was quite a big tower. This shape worked out well and we got to a height of 130 cm. It looked like a tower. It was the first attempt for this project, or at least for me, where something Tower-like was the outcome.
It also started to grow. Which showed us, even though it was not the perfect shape as it already started to lean to one direction and we had to use tension strips to keep it together, we were on the right track. It was the first tower that was something. For the first time I could feel the enthusiasm for this project because I knew we could go somewhere.
Later we realised that this 'bending' did not work though, not at all. We were aiming to build 3 meters high but we could not even reach half of it as it was already unstable. So, back to the drawing board...