Julia Lohmann

Kombu Ahtola, 2020

COMING 23 OCTOBER


In 2013, designer Julia Lohmann founded the Department of Seaweed, a transdisciplinary group of
artists, designers, scientists, and sea-lovers, to collectively develop seaweed as a sustainable material for making. The inspiration came from a research visit to a seaweed farm on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, where Lohmann was given a large bag containing kombu, a local seaweed grown exclusively for food. Struck by its large surface area, undulating texture, and beautiful colours, as well as its environmental benefits, she decided to investigate ways of using seaweed in 

product design.


Besides researching and developing algae as a material with the potential of replacing leather, textile, wood, paper and plastic, the Department of Seaweed creates future scenarios based on the various perspectives of its multidisciplinary network. It identifies case studies involving methods that might constructively be applied to other natural resources. The Department of Seaweed members test new forms of cooperation based on algae, developing a body of knowledge for sustainable design with marine organisms. They hope to counter the inevitable ‘gold rush’ approach to the use of algae, which have been praised as the new oil, with a nuanced discourse and with globally connected, regenerative and sustainable local action.


In the Kombu Ahtola, kelp is used as a membrane to cover a rattan structure. Single pieces of seaweed are applied to connect each of the rattan ribs. The drying seaweed takes on a convex shape and there-by deforms, tightens, and stabilises the entire structure. An Ahtola is the mythical underwater palace of the Finnish sea goddesses. Lohmann: ‘Kelp is an ecosystem-builder that supports underwater organisms both big and small and supplies us with our oxygen. It can also give shelter to the deities of the ocean – or is it the deity itself?’

 

Julia Lohmann (1977, Germany) is a designer and researcher based in Helsinki. She investigates and critiques the ethical and material value systems underpinning our relationship with flora and fauna. Julia’s research interests include critical practice and transition-design, biomaterials, collaborative making, museums and residencies, embodied cognition, and practice as research. She is Professor of Practice in 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 a collaborative PhD scholarship with the Victoria & Albert Museum. She established the Department of Seaweed while a designer-in-residence at the V&A in 2013.


www.julialohmann.co.uk

Julia Lohmann

Kombu Ahtola, 2020

Japanese Hidaka-Kombu seaweed, rattan and plywood, 260 x 280 x 170 cm