In the landlocked Swiss town of Davos-Klosters, German designer Julia Lohmann has brought multi-sensory elements of the sea to guests of the World Economic Forum (WEF) 50th Annual Meeting. Hidaka Ohmu is a seaweed installation accompanied by a seaweed prototyping workshop. Created as part of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum exhibition, ‘Partnering with Nature,’ the installation aims to “encourage participants to play with natural elements, learn about the symbiotic relationships in nature and be inspired to imagine a more cohesive approach to working with nature.” Made from kelp and rattan, the organic pavilion immerses visitors in the scents and colors of the ocean as a reminder of the importance of environmental conservation.
The Hidaka Ohmu installation is part of Julia Lohmann’s Department of Seaweed, an ongoing collection of work that explores the sustainable uses of seaweed and ways the material can be used to spark dialogue. At WEF, the installation took the shape of an organic pavilion with a rattan frame and semi-translucent kelp panels, the colors of which change depending on the light. Hidaka Ohmu takes its name from the Hidaka kelp used for the installation and the pavilion’s resemblance to Ohmu, the massive insect-like creatures from the 1984 Japanese animated film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, a cautionary sci-fi tale of environmental devastation.
In addition to exploring the sights and smells of Hidaka Ohmu, WEF participants were invited to create objects from seaweed themselves in Lohmann’s Department of Seaweed prototyping workshop. The workshop aims to make science and our relationship with nature more tangible as a means of encouraging environmentally responsible actions and raising awareness about climate change. The installation and workshop were presented from January 21 to January 24, 2020.
“We need an empathic, more than human-centric way of engaging with nature,” Lohmann said. “Every species has an equal right to life on this planet. We can use the same human ingenuity that has led to the climate crisis we are facing now — and design has a lot to answer for in this — to protect and regenerate the ecosystem that sustains us.”
Photography by Valeriano Di Domenico, Farouk Pinjo, Claran McCrickard, and Sikarin Fon Thanachaiary via WEF