Underneath Grand Rapids’ South West Area Neighborhood (SWAN) are miles of mines that have little commercial use today. They stretch across the city and underneath waterways such as the Grand River. These mines are remnants of the city’s first industry boom: gypsum mining. During the early 1900s, miners in this area began to grow mushrooms in unused parts of the mines. At a time when sustainability was not front of mind, the people of Grand Rapids chose to use emptied mines in a sustainable manner. As cities grow, land use becomes a topic of contention. Debates between commercial land value and aesthetical land value take place—a familiar conversation to the residents of SWAN. This neighborhood once housed the industries of our city. Now that they’re gone, what’s left to do with it?
This speculative world questions what an architectural relationship between fungi and humans might look like. As abandoned mines are left to their own devices, the fruiting bodies of buried mycelium emerge. Stemming from approaches to alternative realities such as solarpunk, could this relationship be sustainable, or even pleasurable? Or, is this nature's attempt to re-colonize space that was once theirs?
Photos by Irlanda Beltran