Reykjavik - Rainforests of the North


( This project was part of a collection funded by Nordplus. )

It’s common knowledge that Iceland lacks woodlands. Considering Icelandic forests in a broader context, it becomes clear that Iceland is surrounded by “forests” of kelp. At the beginning of this project, we didn’t view algae as majestic, but rather as slimy, smelly, and uninteresting. After three months of traversing the world of algae, we’ve come to realize their innate beauty, opportunities and profound fragility. As a collective, we realized that the Icelandic kelp forests are of cultural and ecological importance but how can we prevent human’s ignorance from overstepping nature’s limits?

Our goal with the project is to encourage respect for algae, just as Icelanders have fought to preserve the mosslands. By exploring the realm of algae: getting to know their differences and embracing them, our hope is that with more knowledge and discourse, our coexistence can be strengthened. In the words of Guðmundur Páll Ólafsson, "You protect only what you love, you love only what you know. You know only what you are taught.”

This project was completed in partnership with Iceland University of the Arts.


The Film Rainforests of the North was done in collaboration with Katrín Þorvaldsdóttir, an Icelandic artist that has worked with seaweed for over thirty years. Katrín and her work were a great inspiration to the project that represents the way we perceive the material after getting familiar with it. How our perspective changed with more knowledge and understanding, from viewing seaweed as something slimy and uninteresting to appreciating its beauty and uniqueness.

Resonance of algae:

The shore is a unique landscape that varies depending on how the tidal range is. Likewise, each algae has its own landscape. The landscape of different algae was used to give them a voice. Each algae was three-dimensionally scanned and transferred to a sound synthesizer. The sounds are therefore unique for each type. The frequency of the sound decreases depending on how deep in the shore the algae lives. Each algae is like an instrument played by the sea, a whole symphony.


The book Rainforests of the North: Revisiting the Shore covers the research part of the project. It travels from our first perception of algae towards our knowledge and respect for it after the process.

Behind the Scenes

Rainforests of the North is a research based design project by the class of 2022 product design students of IUA. The project is the result of, Rountevouz, a course led by Tinna Gunnarsdóttir and is a part of a two year initiative named “Algae for Design-Led Transition towards a Blue Bio-Economy” sponsored by Nordplus Horizontal.


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