Issue 1
ISSUE
STORY TYPE
AUTHOR
10
PERSPECTIVE
June 17, 2024
We Need More Than Fewer, Better Things
by Deb Chachra
10
PERSPECTIVE
June 3, 2024
An Ode to Garages
by Charlie Weak
10
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
May 28, 2024
In Search of Domestic Kintsugi
by Edwin Heathcote
10
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
May 13, 2024
The Perils of the Landscapes We Make
by Karrie Jacobs
10
PERSPECTIVE
May 6, 2024
Using Simple Tools as a Radical Act of Independence
by Jarrett Fuller
9
PERSPECTIVE
April 29, 2024
Why Can’t I Just Go Home?
by Eva Hagberg
9
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
April 22, 2024
Why Did Our Homes Stop Evolving?
by George Kafka
9
ROUNDTABLE
April 8, 2024
Spaces Where the Body Is a Vital Force
by Tiffany Jow
9
BOOK REVIEW
April 1, 2024
Tracing the Agency of Women as Users and Experts of Architecture
by Mimi Zeiger
9
PERSPECTIVE
March 25, 2024
Are You Sitting in a Non-Place?
by Mzwakhe Ndlovu
9
ROUNDTABLE
March 11, 2024
At Home, Connecting in Place
by Marianela D’Aprile
9
PERSPECTIVE
March 4, 2024
VALIE EXPORT’s Tactical Urbanism
by Alissa Walker
8
PERSPECTIVE
February 26, 2024
What the “Whole Earth Catalog” Taught Me About Building Utopias
by Anjulie Rao
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 19, 2024
How a Run-Down District in London Became a Model for Neighborhood Revitalization
by Ellen Peirson
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 12, 2024
In Brooklyn, Housing That Defies the Status Quo
by Gideon Fink Shapiro
8
PERSPECTIVE
February 5, 2024
That “Net-Zero” Home Is Probably Living a Lie
by Fred A. Bernstein
8
PERSPECTIVE
January 22, 2024
The Virtue of Corporate Architecture Firms
by Kate Wagner
8
PERSPECTIVE
January 16, 2024
How Infrastructure Shapes Us
by Deb Chachra
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
January 8, 2024
The Defiance of Desire Lines
by Jim Stephenson
7
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
December 18, 2023
This House Is Related to You and to Your Nonhuman Relatives
by Sebastián López Cardozo
7
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
December 11, 2023
What’s the Point of the Plus Pool?
by Ian Volner
7
BOOK REVIEW
December 4, 2023
The Extraordinary Link Between Aerobics and Architecture
by Jarrett Fuller
7
PERSPECTIVE
November 27, 2023
Architecture That Promotes Healing and Fortifies Us for Action
by Kathryn O’Rourke
7
objects and things
November 6, 2023
How to Design for Experience
by Diana Budds
7
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
October 30, 2023
The Meaty Objects at Marta
by Jonathan Griffin
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
October 23, 2023
How Oliver Grabes Led Braun Back to Its Roots
by Marianela D’Aprile
6
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
October 16, 2023
Can Adaptive Reuse Fuel Equitable Revitalization?
by Clayton Page Aldern
6
PERSPECTIVE
October 9, 2023
What’s the Point of a Tiny Home?
by Mimi Zeiger
6
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
October 2, 2023
A Book Where Torn-Paper Blobs Convey Big Ideas
by Julie Lasky
6
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
September 24, 2023
The Architecture of Doing Nothing
by Edwin Heathcote
6
BOOK REVIEW
September 18, 2023
What the “Liebes Look” Says About Dorothy Liebes
by Debika Ray
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
September 11, 2023
Roy McMakin’s Overpowering Simplicity
by Eva Hagberg
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
September 5, 2023
Minimalism’s Specific Objecthood, Interpreted by Designers of Today
by Glenn Adamson
5
ROUNDTABLE
August 28, 2023
How Joan Jonas and Eiko Otake Navigate Transition
by Siobhan Burke
5
OBJECTS AND THINGS
August 21, 2023
The Future-Proofing Work of Design-Brand Archivists
by Adrian Madlener
5
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
August 14, 2023
Can a Church Solve Canada’s Housing Crisis?
by Alex Bozikovic
5
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
August 7, 2023
In Search of Healing, Helen Cammock Confronts the Past
by Jesse Dorris
5
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
July 31, 2023
What Dead Malls, Office Parks, and Big-Box Stores Can Do for Housing
by Ian Volner
5
PERSPECTIVE
July 24, 2023
A Righteous Way to Solve “Wicked” Problems
by Susan Yelavich
5
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
July 17, 2023
Making a Mess, with a Higher Purpose
by Andrew Russeth
5
ROUNDTABLE
July 10, 2023
How to Emerge from a Starchitect’s Shadow
by Cynthia Rosenfeld
4
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
June 26, 2023
There Is No One-Size-Fits-All in Architecture
by Marianela D’Aprile
4
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
June 19, 2023
How Time Shapes Amin Taha’s Unconventionally Handsome Buildings
by George Kafka
4
SHOW AND TELL
June 12, 2023
Seeing and Being Seen in JEB’s Radical Archive of Lesbian Photography
by Svetlana Kitto
4
PERSPECTIVE
June 5, 2023
In Built Environments, Planting Where It Matters Most
by Karrie Jacobs
3
PERSPECTIVE
May 30, 2023
On the Home Front, a Latine Aesthetic’s Ordinary Exuberance
by Anjulie Rao
3
PERSPECTIVE
May 21, 2023
For a Selfie (and Enlightenment), Make a Pilgrimage to Bridge No. 3
by Alexandra Lange
3
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
May 8, 2023
The Building Materials of the Future Might Be Growing in Your Backyard
by Marianna Janowicz
3
BOOK REVIEW
May 1, 2023
Moving Beyond the “Fetishisation of the Forest”
by Edwin Heathcote
2
ROUNDTABLE
April 24, 2023
Is Craft Still Synonymous with the Hand?
by Tiffany Jow
2
OBJECTS AND THINGS
April 17, 2023
A Historian Debunks Myths About Lacemaking, On LaceTok and IRL
by Julie Lasky
2
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
April 10, 2023
How AI Helps Architects Design, and Refine, Their Buildings
by Ian Volner
2
SHOW AND TELL
April 3, 2023
Merging Computer and Loom, a Septuagenarian Artist Weaves Her View of the World
by Francesca Perry
1
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
March 27, 2023
Words That Impede Architecture, According to Reinier de Graaf
by Osman Can Yerebakan
1
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
March 20, 2023
Painting With Plaster, Monica Curiel Finds a Release
by Andrew Russeth
1
PERSPECTIVE
March 13, 2023
Rules and Roles in Life, Love, and Architecture
by Eva Hagberg
1
Roundtable
March 6, 2023
A Design Movement That Pushes Beyond Architecture’s Limitations
by Tiffany Jow
0
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 7, 2023
To Improve the Future of Public Housing, This Architecture Firm Looks to the Past
by Ian Volner
0
PERSPECTIVE
February 7, 2023
The Radical Potential of “Prime Objects”
by Glenn Adamson
0
SHOW AND TELL
February 20, 2023
Xiyadie’s Queer Cosmos
by Xin Wang
0
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
February 13, 2023
How Michael J. Love’s Subversive Tap Dancing Steps Forward
by Jesse Dorris
0
SHOW AND TELL
February 7, 2023
Finding Healing and Transformation Through Good Black Art
by Folasade Ologundudu
0
BOOK REVIEW
February 13, 2023
How Stephen Burks “Future-Proofs” Craft
by Francesca Perry
0
ROUNDTABLE
February 27, 2023
Making Use of End Users’ Indispensable Wisdom
by Tiffany Jow
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
The New Lessons Architect Steven Harris Learns from Driving Old Porsches
by Jonathan Schultz
0
PERSPECTIVE
February 7, 2023
The Day Architecture Stopped
by Kate Wagner
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
The Overlooked Potential of Everyday Objects
by Adrian Madlener
0
ROUNDTABLE
February 7, 2023
A Conversation About Generalists, Velocity, and the Source of Innovation
by Tiffany Jow
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
Using a Fungi-Infused Paste, Blast Studio Turns Trash Into Treasure
by Natalia Rachlin
Untapped is published by the design company Henrybuilt.
OBJECTS AND THINGS
02.07.2023
Using a Fungi-Infused Paste, Blast Studio Turns Trash Into Treasure

The London firm’s commitment to experimentation yields fast progress in its quest to recycle urban waste into everyday objects.

3D-printed objects by Blast Studio
3D-printed objects by Blast Studio. (Courtesy Blast Studio)


The idea for Blast Studio—an acronym for Biological Laboratory of Architecture and Sensitive Technologies—took form in a quiet corner of a dimly lit Parisian bar, over beer. There sat Paola Garnousset, Martin Detoeuf, and Pierre de Pingon—trained architects who met while studying at Paris’s École Spéciale d’Architecture—who had graduated and were each working at different firms. But, as revealed at the bar, they were frustrated by the way architecture was being practiced. “We wanted to return to the research that had been foundational to our studies,” de Pingon says. “And we wanted to be more radical about how we thought about architecture.” 

Five years later, Blast Studio is now based in London and an inventive, young (Garnousset is 29,  Detoeuf, 31, and de Pingon, 30) player in the rapidly growing segment of the design industry that is working to find scalable solutions that build toward a more circular economy—one desperately needed if we ever hope to ameliorate the climate crisis. Its work involves a curious combination of art, science, and nature that transforms urban waste into sculptural, often functional 3D-printed items. A commitment to constant reassessment lies at the studio’s core. “Our studies made us very willing to experiment,” Garnousset says, “and to understand that if something doesn’t work, or could work better, you go back and try once more.”

Joe Iles, a program lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which develops and promotes the idea of a circular economy—a framework based on the reuse and regeneration of materials or products—is an ardent supporter of the type of research the nimble practice undertakes. “We need people to test materials and new ways of building, and who are willing to get their hands dirty,” says Iles, who was part of the advisory panel for the London Design Museum’s 2021–22 exhibition “Waste Age: What can design do?,” which featured Blast Studio’s output. He believes most of the innovation required for a truly circular economy has yet to be done. To get there, he says, “We’re going to have to get it wrong a lot—but we don’t have the luxury of getting these experiments wrong at scale. We need firms like Blast Studio to do this very important work: to drive things in the right direction, lay the groundwork, and prove that the technology is there to give way to wider system changes.” 

The studio came into its own following its move across the Channel, in 2019, upon receiving a six-month residency at OpenCell, an incubator-cum-co-working space for biotech start-ups. (Alongside mentorship, the company offers participants a host of spaces that provide “hotel services for scientists,” with amenities including lab coat laundry, dry ice shipment, and cryogenic freezer storage.) With access to labs, specialized equipment, and myriad experts, the studio refined its raison d’être. “We leveled-up on the scientific and business side,” de Pingon says, “and clearly formulated what we want to do: explore how nature and technology can work together to transform cities’ discarded materials into objects and architecture.”

Martin Detoeuf, Pierre de Pingon, and Paola Garnousset
(From left) Martin Detoeuf, Pierre de Pingon, and Paola Garnousset. (Courtesy Blast Studio)


The move to London also sparked a key observation. “Everyone was having to-go coffees in paper cups, something that wasn’t very prevalent in Paris,” says Garnousset, who currently works primarily on computational design (Detoeuf focuses on robotics, and de Pingon on material development and general strategy). “We realized this was an enormous source of waste, and also a potential resource.” They started experimenting with the cups: shredding them, disinfecting them, and creating a paste that they inseminated with mycelium—the weblike, root-shaped system of fungi—which fed on the organic matter of the coffee cups to grow, allowing natural life to form upon whatever structure the biomaterial is used to create. The result: a lightweight, cream-colored material with the texture of velvet. Some of the earliest experiments took the shape of vases, which the designers made by hacking a small 3-D printer and feeding it their material with a syringe. They sold the resulting vessels through a Kickstarter campaign, in 2020, named “Lovely Trash.” It raised just over  £10,500 (around $12,500), and provided their business’s initial funding. 

As demand for the work grew swiftly, the studio decided to build its own large-scale 3-D printer and a custom paste extruder for the biomaterial, which the co-founders have since adapted to recycle, in addition to coffee cups, pizza boxes, packaging boxes, and other cardboard waste. The machines print the pulpy substance into usable forms using an algorithm that generates shapes that encourage the growth of mycelium: ones that retain moisture, for example, and have plenty of surface area to allow the mycelium to create a thick skin. 

Today, items generated by this patent-pending process form the commercial base of the studio’s practice. Among its most recent commissions: an installation of 30 lighting fixtures for the southwest London co-working space HomeWork, and a series of lamps, counters, tables, and installations for the bar and lobby areas of One West Point, a high-rise in the city’s North Acton commercial zone; all pieces are made from cardboard waste generated by the building’s occupants. 

Blast Studio’s “Blue Tree” (2021)
Blast Studio’s “Blue Tree” (2021) was a finalist for the 2022 Loewe Craft Prize. (Courtesy Blast Studio)


The studio is also tackling physically bigger endeavors. “Blue Tree” (2021), a nearly seven-foot-tall 3D-printed column, features countless crevices that are ideal for plant life and insects to flourish. (Blast Studio’s website describes the sculpture as a “new kind of tree” in which “waste becomes natural again.”) Last year, the Loewe Foundation’s prestigious Loewe Craft Prize selected the piece as a finalist. “‘Blue Tree’ makes a strong statement on sustainability, combining the use of an unexpected material—disposed coffee cups, which are ubiquitous and symptomatic of our attitude and lack of care toward the natural environment—with indigo blue, a traditional pigment that has been [long] used for dying,” says Anatxu Zabalbeascoa, the executive secretary of the initiative’s 2022 Expert Panel. “The result is a very pleasing and successfully executed aesthetic form.” 

The column has paved the way to Blast Studio’s most ambitious project to date: “Tree Pavilion,” an outdoor canopy with a 5- to 10-year lifespan that it hopes to complete by this autumn. After the form’s prime, it can be repurposed—put back into the printer, and reimagined. “When you look at nature, there is no waste created: everything becomes a resource for other organisms,” Garnousset says. “That is the ultimate model.” When “Tree Pavilion” is completed, the firm’s co-founders say, it will be the first 3D-printed architectural form made entirely from waste. 

A sculpture by Blast Studio
A sculpture by Blast Studio inspired by the trunk of an Acacia tree. (Courtesy Blast Studio)


Once the stuff of sci-fi films and high-tech laboratories, 3-D printing has, over the course of the past 20 years, become commonplace, something that can happen in our very own homes; a couple hundred dollars and an Amazon account are often the only remaining barriers to entry. In the design and architecture space, the Dutch designer Joris Laarman and the Danish-born, Sweden-based designer Mathias Bengtsson were among the earliest proponents of the technology, having developed functional and sculptural furniture pieces in the early 2000s. (Their work currently fetches enormous sums at auction.) MX3D, a collaboration between Laarman’s lab and the engineering powerhouse Arup, has successfully scaled 3-D printing technology to architecture: Its signature project, a 39-foot-long stainless-steel footbridge, completed in 2021, sits across one of Amsterdam’s canals. 

Blast Studio’s material choices continually set its work apart from such established practitioners (though there are a growing number of other firms, including Stockholm’s Interesting Times Gang and Rotterdam’s The New Raw, also experimenting with 3D-printing furniture from waste). Notably, Blast Studio has adapted the material used for its most recent projects to perform without mycelium—even as the fire-retardant material currently enjoys a moment in the limelight, with mainstream applications in insulation and packaging, as well as more high-end uses, with fashion brands such as Hermès and Stella McCartney exploring mycelium-based materials for accessories and clothing. Instead, the latest mixture incorporates wood, sawdust, and London clay (collected near the studio, at the building site for the city’s new HS2 high-speed rail) to make the substance more stable, dense, and load-bearing for furniture and architectural interventions.

“We see a sense of urgency in dealing with all of the waste,” de Pingon says, “and how we can transform it into something useful, at speed.”


The decision to evolve past mycelium came, in part, because the substance comes with plentiful limitations, not least the fact that it’s far from weatherproof. “It’s a beautiful material, but it’s also a living organism, so it’s very complex to put it into a manufacturing context,” Garnousset says. “It can easily be eaten by other organisms; it is not easily controlled.” Time is also a constraint: The studio’s mycelium-based designs have to sit in a humid environment for about a month for the fungi to develop and must then be dried to stop further growth. “Mycelium creates something very strong, but [we’re also concerned with] efficiency, and think about how much more waste we could transform in the same time span,” de Pingon says. “We see a sense of urgency in dealing with all of the waste, and how we can transform it into something useful, at speed.” 

With “Tree Pavilion,” the studio aims to increase the number of animal, plant, and fungus species its material and structure can support. It’s currently taking a layered approach, testing out different ingredients and densities for various parts of the form. “We want to create an entire ecosystem for humans,” de Pingon says. It also plans to bring what the designers call their “Urban Stomach”—a small, mobile recycling factory—to diverse destinations around the globe, and to transform the garbage on site into necessary objects or buildings. “You don’t have coffee cups everywhere,” de Pingon says. “Specific waste is tied to specific locations, and our goal is to adapt any kind of trash to our biomaterial, and to do it quickly.”

If the pavilion is the first step on Blast Studio’s path toward larger-scale work, what’s next? “A cathedral?” quips de Pingon. Detoeuf offers a more measured response: “A pavilion is a very interesting piece of architecture because there is less regulation,” he says. “A big part of the job now will be to [develop] a regulated material that we can build architecture to live around, and within. Then perhaps we can look to be part of a residential building, do a façade perhaps, or a space with a specific function on the inside of a structure. That would be a big achievement.”