Textile materials made from algae—Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven @ VICIS 2018

Sustainability, carbon footprint, CO2 emissions. These are just a few of the terms that have defined our social discourse for many years now—from world climate conferences, election campaigns and media debates down to the pub discussion. The problems are well known, and the scientific endeavors to find a solution lead to worldwide research projects, funded by national and international budgets, as well as massive investments and support from the private sector. The H&M Foundation, funded by the Swedish textile company of the same name, is one such instrument for stimulation, promoting and financing projects in the areas of education, equality and the environment, amongst other things by awarding the Global Change Award.

The Dutch designer and inventor Tjeerd Veenhoven was one of the laureates in 2016 for his work exploring the possibility of extracting textile materials from a completely new raw material—ordinary algae. While these eukaryotic creatures are a widely used food in parts of Southeast Asia, they are mostly considered in research only in a pharmaceutical context or for the purpose of being a renewable source of energy.

However, the project AlgaeFabrics, shown in the exhibition VICIS // ALWAYS CHANGE A RUNNING SYSTEM, is looking for ways to harness algae to produce yarns for the textile industry. It compares different species in terms of their suitability in detail, highlights economics and their influences on different regions of the world and shows possibilities for cultivation and harvest. While in terms of processing the raw material, it focuses on the high cellulose content, it also sheds a light on the environmental aspect: the algae grow enormously fast, the cultivation of food is not robbed of arable land and—logically—no fresh water is consumed. In addition, the economic harvesting of algae could be beneficial in areas where their growth is otherwise recognized as a problem as they contaminate waters or beaches. Another very notable aspect, however, is the large amount of carbon dioxide that algae need for their growth and for this purpose bind and convert to oxygen. The project is therefore also investigating the possibility of whether it could help the textile / fashion industry, that has more and more fallen into disrepute recently, to close the environmental loop.

Part of the exhibition VICIS // ALWAYS CHANGE A RUNNING SYSTEM | March 3—11, 2018 | Architekturgalerie München im BUNKER | mcbw.