Lucidum—design for a regenerative future
In a fast-paced world, society has become reliant on the use of non-degradable and cheap materials when it comes to designing products for use. For humanity to move forward into the future with challenges like the climate crisis facing us, it’s simply not feasible to continue using materials like plastic in our products. UTS honours graduate in product design, Josh Riesel, rethinks the plastics problem and offers a new way forward.
The world is in the midst of a climate crisis. Our current economy is built on the consumption and destruction of finite natural resources, and there is little effort to change that. Recent history has made it clear that these parasitic behaviours are toxic to both the natural world and a human future.
Rebuilding our economy to support a symbiotic relationship between humanity and the rest of the planet is one of the few feasible solutions that still supports capitalist infrastructure. Moving towards this future involves creating a system where industries thrive off a healthy environment and every product made can be fed back into the land at the end of its life. Materials such as mycelium–the root structure of mushrooms–can be harnessed to bind other organic substrates together, replacing synthetic adhesives commonly used in MDF wood, or completely replacing Styrofoam. Completely compostable and incredibly low energy to produce, mycelium is quickly proving itself to be a strong player in a sustainable future. With terrific work from the likes of US-based companies Ecovative and Mycoworks, and research conducted all around the world from the likes of Dutch Designer Eric Klarenbeek, it’s only a matter of time before we see the widespread adoption of mycelium products.
Designing for degradable materials such as mycelium requires not just a knowledge of material production and manufacture, but an understanding of how to design for a new type of product typology. Plastics have dominated the industry for the past 50 years, creating an expectation that all products are strong, lightweight, waterproof, last as long as needed, and still be incredibly cheap. Designing with these new materials means redesigning the way people connect to material and object, expecting gradual degradation and learning how to maintain their products along the way.
Developed as part of his UTS Product Design Honours year, Josh Riesel developed Lucidum, a mycelium-based lighting system. Highlighting the beauty and textural intricacies of mycelium, Lucidum has been designed to aid in a transition towards a future where short-life products are naturally regenerative. Using a simple 2-part mould, the body is made from post-manufacturing wood shavings with Reishi mushroom spawn spread throughout. When placed inside an incubator, the mycelium grows through the sawdust, binding it together and creating the beautiful surface textures that mycelium is known for. Once grown through, the living culture is dried out in an oven, stabilising the part for use.
A multi-part system, Lucidum’s diffusers can be easily swapped out, from table lights to floor lights. Placed upon an LED set within a recycled timber base, the system is designed for compostability, recyclability, and repair. Healing our planet won’t be easy, but with materials like mycelium it might just be a little bit easier.
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