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Design, Material Study, Research, Course Work

[Click on above images to enlarge and play process video]

This project began as an experiment in producing my own bio-material as part of an experimental architecture design studio lead by Diego Pinochet and Lavender Tessmer during the 5th semester of my MArch. Specifically, my interest was in working with a material that could conceivably be significant not only as as an alternative to fossil fuel materials, but also as an indicator of what that future might look like in terms of texture, light, and geometry.

Seaweed has the potential to become one of the most important crops in the next 30 years as we face a rapidly growing global population and near potential drastic tipping points. The carbon sequestering plant, which comes in many forms, can be grown at scale without fresh water and land use, be used as fertilizer, insulation, and of course food -- all of which have a cultural history globally that goes back millennia.


Alginate (from Dried Kelp):
The bioploymer alginate gives brown seaweed (like kelp) its unique properties of strength, ability to grow at scale, water retention and resistance. Material color, opacity, texture and strength is controlled by the quantity and processing of the dried kelp.

Potato Starch:
In addition to its use in the kitchen, potato starch, is commonly used binding agent at various scales from plastics to anti-biotics. Compared to other starches, it has a relatively low gelatinization temperature and responds more actively to water. Starches require heat and water to bind.

A small amount of glycerine lubricates the polymer chains, giving flexibility to an otherwise brittle material.

Vinegar + Salt:
Vinegar and salt strengthen bioplastics by breaking up long polymer chains and creating structural order at the molecular level through a chemical process of ionization.

Hydrates and binds materials together.

Producing Geometry:
Once I started producing a material of relative consistency, I began to notice a recurring phenomenon:

What I had previously thought of as a problem -- shrinkage -- was, in a way, the material producing it’s own structure, buckling on itself and generating three-dimensional geometry and strength independently. How could this be controlled? How could I assert my own agenda on this self-determining material?

How can this type of collaboration between material and designer move forward as a conversation of freedom and control -- of embracing a future material ontology in which constructive materials responds to and react to environmental conditions, exerting their agency in a living architecture?

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