Most of us think of seaweed as the slimy stuff that washes up on the beach on our summer vacations, or maybe even the encasement that holds our delicious sushi together. But designers Jonas Edvard and Nikolaj Steenfatt have developed a new material by combining seaweed and paper to create furniture and other products like chairs and lamps for their Terroir project.
While researching local materials, the designers found that the fucus seaweed harvested along the coastline of Denmark – which stretches over 8,000 km long – has alginate, a natural polymer that can be dried and ground into a powder, which can then be cooked into an adhesive glue. After the gluey substance dries, it hardens into a warm and tactile material described as having the softness of cork and the lightness of paper and can be used for products and furniture.
Through their Terroir project, Edvard and Steenfatt aimed to design minimalist pieces, such as a chair and lamp shades, with character derived from locally harvested raw materials like seaweed and ash wood. Therefore, their design process emphasizes the culture and heritage connected to the surrounding landscape while also contributing to a sustainable economy and recycling natural materials.
The Terroir pieces are lightweight, but very durable. Surprisingly, the designs consist of mostly seaweed—no other additives or adhesives were used in the making of the furniture. Most people think there must be extra glue, but it’s only seaweed and paper. The glue they’ve created using the seaweed is just that strong! Interestingly, the copious amount of salt found naturally in seaweed also helps to preserve the molded furniture and protect it from fire.
The color of the material is determined by the different species of seaweed, and ranges from dark brown to light green. You’d also think with seaweed as their main ingredient, the furnishings would have a certain odor, but they apparently don’t smell like much. Because of the quantity of nitrogen, iodine, magnesium and calcium in the seaweed, the biodegradable furniture can be broken down into a natural fertilizer or reused. It’s cool to think about a world in which our sustainable furniture could one day live on through a community garden project instead of a landfill.
Lately, designers have been experimenting with seaweed and other forms of algae for architectural and textile purposes, and even energy sources to power buildings. Edvard and Steenfatt, who both have masters degrees in product and furniture design from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts’ School of Design, wanted to use seaweed in a way it hadn’t been used before.
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