“Algae for Design-led Transition Towards Blue Bio-economy” was a two year project supported by the Nordplus Horizontal Programme, that brought together design students from four Universities (EKA in Estonia, Aalto University in Finland, The University of the Arts in Iceland and Design School Kolding in Denmark. We also cooperated with seaweed scholars, scientists and companies in Sweden and Lithuania. We set out to examine the potential of algae as a marine bio-material and co-design pathways for bio-economy development in the Nordic-Baltic region – with the aim to improve the health of our seas.
Through the project we developed educational frameworks and curricula and fostered the advancement of bio-based marine materials by sharing knowledge and skills. We explored emerging technologies in close cooperation with industries, institutions, and local partners, and showed our students that design is a relational practice, informed by knowledge and experiences beyond the realm of creative practices.
We organised six international encounters with partners from each University at marine research stations, on algae-rich shores, in creative studios and laboratories. We sampled seas, discussed with marine experts, experimented with materials, hosted conversations and co-imagined algae-futures. We disseminated our work through installations, exhibitions, panel-discussion and workshops on algae-futures and ocean health.
We educated the students in modelling, foresight, scenario building, futures-visioning and critical design methods, material practices, prototyping and object development.
We tested immersive teaching methods that enable relating to the socio-ecological context of biomaterials. By taking the students to marine research stations –even into the ocean– we broadened their understanding of how our design decisions impact the sea.