Seaweed is an underrated material, useful for far more than swaddling your sushi: it’s been used in everything from spa treatments to vaccines to ice cream to fertilizer. Now, a pair of Danish designers have transformed the slimy brown beach dreck into a collection of beautiful furniture.
Jonas Edvard and Nikolaj Steenfatt, who hold masters in furniture design from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, used fucus seaweed, a type of algae they harvested by hand from the Danish coastline, to create the Terroir chair and lamps. Fucus seaweed contains alginate, a naturally occurring polymer. When it’s dried and ground up into powder and then mixed into a glue, it becomes a durable, cork-like material. Edvard and Steenfatt molded this material into an earthy-chic seat and dome-shaped hanging lamps. “As most people don’t know the actual strength of the alginate, they often think we put some extra glue inside, but it is only seaweed and paper,” Edvard told Dezeen. The high level of salt in the seaweed acts as a natural preservative and flame retardant.
“The project began as an investigation into using local materials,” Edvard tells Co.Design. They wanted their objects to reflect the character of the Danish landscape. “In Denmark, there’s a lot of coastline. Almost everywhere you go, the sea is visible and therefore a big part of the landscape,” Edvard says.
They’re not the first to use seaweed as a structural material in Denmark: in the 19th century, it was traditionally used in architectural cladding, particularly on the island of Læsø. Trees were scarce, but seaweed was plentiful. A few modern architects, like Danish firm Vandkunsten, have experimented with reviving the practice: seaweed insulates just as well as mineral insulation, according to the architects, and it’s highly sustainable. Contemporary designers have also experimented with making laser-cut kelp and fresh seaweed lampshades.