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Julia Lohman


Test of a Kombu Ahtola
Japanese Hidaka-Kombu seaweed, rattan and plywood

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. 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. 

In the Kombu Ahtola, kelp is used as a membrane to cover a rattan structure. The drying seaweed takes on a convex shape and thereby 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?’ 

About Julia Lohman 

Julia Lohman 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.

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