Architect and textile designer Marin Sawa‘s beautiful work explores ways that we can incorporate the production of biofuels within our built environments. With her Algaerium, she has created a series of living surfaces and textiles that cultivate and produce green energy in the form of algae.
Sawa’s interest in “smart” materials has led her to specialize in multidisciplinary design, where she successfully combines textiles, biology and architecture. She is fascinated by the ‘simplicity’ of these intricate organic materials and qualities that are engineered to be intelligent, but devoid of electronics.
Marin Sawa’s intent with the Algaerium was to create and explore algae as spatial installations in urban conditions. By working with the photosynthetic method, she combines algae and light to produce stunning color systems that react and respond to the surrounding environment. The designer explains: “The project proposes utilization of algae’s biological attributes such as photosynthesis and bioluminescence as beneficial design solutions in response to our contemporary ‘environmental consciousness’.”
There are also larger and less tangible aspects to this project, like Sawa’s aspirations to raise our awareness about nature while personally contributing to our ecosystem. Working from her kitchen lab, Sawa has created new forms and new hybrids of algae that exhibit unique material properties, all the way down to their genetic structure.
The Algaerium is but a taste of how algae can be used as an energy source in the future. The material is not ready for a commercial market yet — it currently only exists as ornamental plants and jewelry that will be released soon by Sawa. Although most algae research is mainly focused on biofuels and electricity, Sawa has shown that the material can be successfully incorporated into functional and aesthetically beautiful elements of interior design.