Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts graduates Jonas Edvard and Nikolaj Steenfatt harvest fucus seaweed – a type of algae – from the Danish coastline, before drying and grinding it into a powder. It is then cooked into a glue, exploiting the viscous and adhesive effect of alginate – a natural polymer found in the brown algae. Combining the seaweed glue with paper results in a tough and durable material similar to cork, which is then moulded into the products in the Terroir Project collection.
Description of the Process
The Terroir Project is created by Jonas Edvard and Nikolaj Steenfatt – both with a master degree in Product and Furniture Design at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine arts, School of Design. The project contains a new material developed from seaweed and paper and is created as a research into local materials. By combining seaweed and paper Edvard and Steenfatt has created a tough and durable material. It is best described as a warm and tactile surface with the softness of cork and the lightness of paper, which can be used for products and furniture. The colour of the material is determined by the different species of seaweed – ranging from dark brown to light green. The seaweed is harvested along the beach of Denmark, which stretches over 8000 km and is one of the worlds longest coastlines compared to the land mass area. After being dried the seaweed is ground into powder and cooked into glue, utilizing the viscous and adhesive effect of the Alginate – the natural polymer of the brown algae. Terroir is a description often used to determine the cultural and geological relation between products and where they are produced, emphasizing the heritage and knowledge linked to the use of the raw material. The aim of the project is to design objects with character derived from the cultural surface of the landscape. By using locally harvested materials the two designers hope to contribute to a local and sustainable economy. The materials are created from renewable resources and the production acts as a recycling of natural materials in a green loop of energy.
The seaweed is dried and ground into a powder and cooked into glue—utilizing the same thickening properties of alginate that food scientists and ice cream lovers enjoy. The resulting viscous paste is then molded into forms for lighting pendants and seating. See the process of creating the collection below.
Seaweed has been used all over the world for thousands of years and is a type of algae. Algae came to existence about three and a half billion years ago and is in 75% of the air we breath.In Europe, Mediterranean seaweeds were used as medicine in Greek and Roman times. Greeks even used seaweed to feed animals as early as 100 BC. In the Mediterranean, some red algae were used as sources of dying agents and as a medicine to treat parasitic worms since pre-Christian times.
Result of project
The resulting line is beautifully organic and imperfect, with slight bumps and imperfections along the surface that reveal their seaweed origin. Edvard and Steenfatt put an extra highlight on the material by leaving their finished lamps and chairs in their natural color, which ranges from greens to browns depending on the seaweed content.The complete, durable line of sustainable furniture is totally recyclable and leaves no waste.
Problems during the the realization of the project and how they were approached
The material can be broken down and reused, or recycled as natural fertiliser, as it contains large amounts of nitrogen, iodine, magnesium and calcium. Seaweed has recently been used as architectural cladding andlampshades while algae has been used as a base material to create a yarn for weaving rugs and a dye for colouring textiles. Algae has even been implemented as an energy source to power buildings.
Contribution of the project to the design practice
By using locally harvested materials the two designers hope to contribute to a local and sustainable economy. The materials are created from renewable resources and the production acts as a recycling of natural materials in a green loop of energy. Because they require no fresh water, no deforestation and no fertilizer, all significant downsides to land farming, these ocean farms promise to be more sustainable than even the most environmentally traditional farms.