The Department of Seaweed (DoS) is a transdisciplinary platform for the exploration of seaweed as a sustainable resource. It employs an empathic, more than human-centric approach. The DoS works in dialogue with an expanding network of experts from science, design, art, crafts, philosophy, policy and justice. The DoS and its members research, network, organise workshops, public events and exhibitions.
Next to the concrete research and development of algae as a material – as a possible replacement for leather, textile, wood, paper and plastic – the DoS creates future scenarios, built from the diverse perspectives of its contributor network from different disciplines. It identifies scenarios that are constructive case studies transferrable to the use of other natural resources.
Together, the DoS members test new forms of cooperation on the basis of algae, developing a body of knowledge for sustainable design with the marine organisms. They intend to counter the inevitable 'gold rush' approach to using algae – which have been praised as the new oil – with a nuanced discourse and globally connected, regenerative and sustainable local action.
Prof. Julia Lohmann
German-born designer and researcher Julia Lohmann investigates and critiques the ethical and material value systems underpinning our relationship with flora and fauna. She is Professor of Contemporary Design at Aalto University, Finland, and directs her eponymous Helsinki-based design practice. Julia studied at the Royal College of Art, where she has also taught and completed an AHRC-funded collaborative PhD scholarship between the RCA and the Victoria & Albert Museum. As designer in residence at the V&A in 2013, she established the Department of Seaweed, a transdisciplinary community of practice exploring the marine organisms' potential as a design material. Julia Lohmann’s work is part of major public and private collections worldwide and has received awards, bursaries and support from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the British Council, Jerwood Contemporary Makers, D&AD, Stanley Picker Gallery, the Arts Foundation, Wellcome Trust and Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.
Violaine Buet is qualified in Humanities, the Science of Education and Sign Language. On obtaining a diploma in industrial design at ENSCI (Paris), she spent 7 years in South India. As her passion for textile design developed, she studied the block print technique and enjoyed a two-year collaboration in a traditional, local workshop where unconventionally, she alternated between the hierarchical roles of apprentice and director. Her close-knit relationship with artisans has confirmed her certitude that the beauty of each design or material is intrinsically tied to the harmony between each link, which unites every hand involved in the creative process. On her return to Brittany, her birthplace, Violaine spent one year at ENSAD (Paris) doing a continual assessment course on textiles and materials, where she began her intensive research on seaweed. In September 2016 she set up her studio for the research and creative development of macro-algae and is accompanied by a network of experts, researchers and artisans with whom she collaborates according to the precise requirements of each individual project.
Gianluca Giabardo is Designer in Residence at the Department of Design, Aalto University.
He graduated at Politecnico di Milano in Industrial Design and completed MEDes with studies at ABK Stuttgart and UIAH Helsinki. He also later obtained an MBA. He has been a research fellow at Politecnico di Milano where he has been teaching and assisting in a number of courses. In 2012 Gianluca co-founded together with Livia Rossi studio Dossofiorito. Although varied, many of Dossofiorito’s projects share a performative and relational attitude and often act as a vehicle for thoughts and considerations that go beyond the physicality of the object and its immediate fruition.
Kayoung Kim is a student in Experimental Design and member of the Öffentliche Gestaltungsberatung at the University of Fine Arts (HFBK) in Hamburg, Germany. She is Prof. Julia Lohmann's research and design assistant at the Department of Seaweed. Kayoung Kim is supporting her in the realisation of the Hidaka Ohmu seaweed installation and the prototyping workshop for the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum exhibition 'Partnering with Nature' at the World Economic Forum 50th Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.
Gero Grundmann is a communication designer and illustrator, translator and educator. He is interested in inclusive and sustainable design. Together with his wife, designer and Aalto University professor of Contemporary Design Julia Lohmann, Gero runs the Helsinki-based design practice Julia Lohmann Studio. He was project associate professor at the Kyoto Institute of Technology D-lab, has taught at a number of European design schools, co-authored an MA-level design curriculum as well as written and led numerous degree-level and postgraduate workshops. Gero has mentored design students and practitioners in Europe and Asia. He holds an MA in Communication Art and Design from the Royal College of Art and a Diploma in Translation from the Chartered Institute of Linguists. He is a former Research Associate of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design. Since 2008, Gero Grundmann has led teams of designers in award-winning inclusive design workshops in Europe and Asia. In Finland, he has curated public programmes on climate change and design in cooperation with the Goethe Institut Finland and Design Museum Helsinki.
Founder and partner at Grüner Hering, Hamburg, Germany, an agency for circular economy, business and design, and senior consultant at Business Design People in Mannheim, Germany. Florian's focus lies in the areas of sustainable business models and circular economy. He studied culture and politics and has an MBA in sustainability management and many years of experience in distribution, marketing and customer retention.
Miryam Pippich is specialized in Service and Interaction Design and graduated from the Oslo School of Architecture in 2018 with a Master degree. She completed her Bachelor in Conceptual Design (2016) at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg under Professor Julia Lohmann and as an exchange student at the University of Applied Arts Vienna with Professor Fiona Raby. Miryam generates ideas through inspiration from her nearby environment, the Nordic Ocean, from the collection of materials in nature, from the silent forest to the windy coast and the manual processing of materials. She assisted Julia Lohmann in the Department of Seaweed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London for 3 months while building the Oki Naganode. Her first discovery of seaweed in Iceland and the collaboration with a local gallery in Reykjavik opened up more opportunities to work with the material. Miryam researches the handling and trend of algae in Norway. She is connected with experts in the food sector, which are currently established on the Norwegian market. Her work has received prizes and scholarships, including from the Leinemannstiftung, Museum of Arts and Crafts, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Eggs Design and BEKK Consulting. Miryam currently lives and works in Oslo, Norway.