Studio Klarenbeek & Dros
Since 2015, Studio Klarenbeek & Dros has been developing biopolymers based on algae and seaweed that enable small-scale local production of objects, using 3D printing, pressing into moulds and injection moulding. The designers believe that over time, this process could completely replace fossil-derived plastics and significantly reduce our carbon footprint, because it eliminates the need for transportation and has carbon-negative properties: ‘Algae grow by absorbing carbon while producing complex starches, natural binding agents, pigments and other valuable components for bioplastics. The waste product is oxygen, clean air, at a scale exceeding the output of trees: as evolutionary pioneers, algae provide 60% of the earth’s oxygen.’
The studio established the Seaweed Circle, a local production chain starting with the cultivation of seaweed and ending with the production of biopolymers, all within 25 kilometres of their studio in the province of North Holland. Cells of a species native to the North Sea are cultivated in a local lab. The seaweed embryos are attached to ropes and placed in the seaport of the industrial town of IJmuiden, where the growing macro-algae improve biodiversity and boost the ecosystem by purifying water, capturing CO2 and releasing oxygen and nutrients into this highly polluted harbour. After harvesting, local farmers extract nutrients and crop enhancers for flower bulbs from the seaweed, as well as mineral-rich irrigation water, facilitating a responsible circular agriculture. The remaining seaweed fibres and valuable extracts return to the cycle as carbon-negative compostable bioplastic.
The methods of the Seaweed Circle can be applied anywhere that algae will grow, which is basically everywhere. According to the designers: ‘We want to change the system by stimulating and enabling communities to locally grow raw materials and independently produce things that meet their needs by combining biotechnology and robotics. We want to develop this into a globally shared body of knowledge.’
Balancing Landscapes is a system of modular elements, 3D-printed from algae polymer, that can function as containers for growing vegetation indoors, ranging from primaeval algae and weeds to the exotic plants now invading the Dutch ecosystem due to climate change.
Eric Klarenbeek (1978, The Netherlands) and Maartje Dros (1980, The Netherlands) have worked together since 2004. As Studio Klarenbeek & Dros, they collaborate on R&D and design projects, creating new local economies and production chains, new materials and products, and durable design objects for public spaces and interiors. They combine and connect forces by forming new networks and collaborations with universities and high-tech companies as well as with farmers and local producers. Their newest network, the Seaweed Circle, aims to introduce a seaweed-based production cycle focusing on sea-farmed biopolymers: ©Weedware.
Studio Klarenbeek & Dros
Balancing Landscapes, 2021
Algae- and plant-based biopolymers (©Weedware), substrate,
water, seaweed biostimulant, algae, invasive plants