Biophilic design with living and dead algae

With his project SEAmpathy, Jerusalem-based designer Daniel Elkayam explores algae as both a living and dead material.

From the dead algae, Elkayam developed a sheet material, which can be reused by cooking the material. The translucent material he used to make Yama, a partition screen.

Another part of this project, called Mayma, is the “reconstruction of the algae for a configuration of living fibers that sustain photosynthesis.” In collaboration with Dr Filipe Natalio’s lab at the Weizmann Institution for Science, Elkayam researched and developed methods for creating living matter. The purpose of the experiment was to manipulate living microscopic algae while keeping it alive. After a variety of experiments, Elkayam developed a shell for algae that on the one hand transforms it into a material for the formation of spheres of fibres, and on the other, allows gas exchange and the continuation of living material.

“In an era characterized by fast and changing fashion that leads to polluting and wasteful industries, I felt that my role as a designer requires me to relate to and embrace values such as sustainability, environmental activism and zero waste,” Elkayam explains. “The project provides a green alternative to a matter, and seeks to bring man and nature together by giving man an active role in growing and recycling the object.”

Photos: Daniel Elkayam