A six-meter wide seaweed installation takes over Finnish shopping centre

Julia Lohmann's globally acknowledged seaweed pavilion is on display around the clock at A Bloc in Otaniemi, Finland.
Julia Lohmann's Hidaka Ohmu seaweed pavilion at the A Bloc shopping centre. Photo: Mikko Raskinen
Julia Lohmann's Hidaka Ohmu seaweed pavilion at the A Bloc shopping centre. Photo: Mikko Raskinen

This January, more than 3,000 top leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss economic, political, environmental and cultural issues of global concern.

One of the invited guests was Julia Lohmann, a professor and designer at Aalto University, who brought to Davos her huge, multisensory seaweed pavilion named Hidaka Ohmu. The structure of the pavilion is made of birch plywood and rattan with a seaweed skin that has been treated with an environmental method to keep it flexible. The method itself is still a secret, as Lohmann wants to develop it further.

Seaweed samples at the World Economic Forum 2020. Photo:  WEF/ Christian Clavadetscher
Naturally dyed seaweed samples at the World Economic Forum 2020 in Davos. Photo: WEF/ Christian Clavadetscher

Kelp grows fast and it is an ecological material, but not at all widely used. Lohmann herself got excited about seaweed in 2007 while working as a designer in Japan, where seaweed is common as food but not at all used as a raw material. This gave rise to a radical idea: why don’t we use our vast algal reserves?

For more than ten years, Lohmann has immersed herself into seaweed research and exploring opportunities to use seaweed, as it is more than just a material: It is a means of regenerating degraded marine ecosystems. We can use it as fertiliser and turn it into bioplastic, biofuel, dyes, veneer and textiles. While it grows, it cleans the ocean of harmful excess nutrients such as agricultural run-offs and fish farm faeces.

Through her work, she wants to engage policy-makers and citizens to responsible action to protect the environment that helps rebalance marine ecosystems. In Finland, Julia Lohmann has collaborated for the Baltic Sea with the John Nurminen Foundation and the Design Museum, among others.

Department of Seaweed won Dezeen's public vote. Photo:  WEF/ Christian Clavadetscher
Photo: WEF/ Christian Clavadetscher

In addition to Davos, Lohmann's seaweed sculptures have gained attention and discussion at the Triennale in Milano, and Hidaka Ohmu won both the award and the public vote of the world's most popular and influential architecture and design magazine Dezeen in the category of sustainable design.

From November 16, you can see the Hidaka Ohmu seaweed pavilion and Lohmann's work in a large retail space of the A Bloc shopping centre in Otaniemi. Due to the corona restrictions, the pavilion and Lohmann’s research workshop are viewed through large shopping windows. The work is on display around the clock, and its skilful lighting is provided by Aalto Studios.

Lohmann's other seaweed installation, Oki Nakanode, will be on display at MoMa in New York on November 21 as part of the Broken Nature exhibition. The Kombu Ahtola, a hanging seaweed sculpture, is currently on show in the Criss-Crossing Ecologies exhibition at Annantalo in Helsinki (Annankatu 30) until 31 January 2021.

During the installation, the retail space will also serve as Lohmann's pop-up studio, where she will work on two research projects.

The installation is part of the EU Horizon 2020 funded research project ‘CreaTures: Creative Practices for Transformational Futures’.

A growing interest in biomaterials and natural processes is visible in the fields of research, design and art. 19.11.-7.12.2020 Väre has an Outré exhibition on bioart. Bioartist were also winners in the recent Aalto campus art competition.

Julia Lohmann's Hidaka Ohmu at A Bloc shopping centre. Photo: Mikko Raskinen

Seaweed pavilion Hidaka Ohmu

The installation Julia Lohmann designed for the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2020, is on display at the A Bloc shopping centre in Otaniemi.

Julia Lohmann's Department of Seaweed at WEF. Photo: Mikko Raskinen

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Lohmann’s magnificent seaweed pavilion won the sustainable design category for Dezeen Awards 2020.

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Research project CreaTures seeks to further the sustainability agenda with creativity

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