Fungi Mutarium by Katharina Unger and Julia Kaisinger. Sustainability Award, Professionals and Enthusiasts
After studying industrial design together at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, undertaking various internships and freelance work, Katharina Unger founded Livin Studio in 2014, which Julia Kaisinger as the co-founder of Livin Farms joined in 2015. They dedicate themselves to researching and implementing alternative food products and methods of nutrition on which their award-winning project, Fungi Mutarium, is based and which won the Sustainability Award in the Professionals and Enthusiasts category.
We spoke to Katharina Unger about her project and the criteria for “good” design.
1. What problem does your project find a solution for and how does it work?
In cooperation with the Institute for Microbiology at the University of Utrecht, Livin Studio has developed a product that allows food to grow in the form of fungi on waste materials such as plastic. A set of cutlery has also been designed to research this new kind of food.
Food production as it exists today must be revolutionised and, to do this, new technologies and approaches are needed. Scientific research studies show that the mycelium in certain fungi disintegrates waste materials like plastic and the toxins contained in them, and can transmogrify them into non-poisonous, edible biomasses.
Above all, we worked with Schizophyllum commune and Pleurotus ostreatus.
2. How did your design process unfold; what steps did you take and what were the challenges?
A large part of the project took place in collaboration with the scientists in the laboratory. This is an unusual environment for designers, but, at the same time, such a collaboration offers a unique opportunity to drive research forward and to implement its results in products that can find practical applications.
3. What are your criteria for “good” design and what role do you think design will play in the future?
Today’s generation of designers must get to grips with a highly technical environment. Because design is no longer a question of form and function, but also includes knowing about biology, chemistry and science. Good design finds human and practical applications for ground-breaking knowledge emerging from other disciplines.