The role of algae in the Venice Lagoon

From kelp to unicellular cyanobacteria, various species of algae populate the waters of Venice Lagoon. Native and invasive species compete, impacted by growing tourism industry and local effects of climate change. Algae blooms are mainly symptoms of some larger human-induced phenomena. At the same time, algae are frequently regarded as a miracle solution for energy sourcing, material production and reversing certain effects of pollution, thus creating a momentum in the biotechnological sector.

Beyond this dichotomy, algae are in fact a part of a more nuanced and complex picture. Atelier Luma made an effort to explore algae within the Venetian context in the course of a workshop in two parts which ran in parallel.

One group of researchers explored the algae landscape and its entanglements with natural, industrial and cultural networks of Venice. Considering the Lagoon ecology, urban infrastructures and various activities taking place in Venice, the workshop became an attempt to map the complex ecosystem existing around algae. Referencing vernacular knowledge and more recent projections on the potential of algae, we researched the place that algae have taken – or been given – in the Venice Lagoon and therefore outline the specific relation that the city has developed with the sea. Speculative scenarios around the role of algae in Venice were developed and discussed within the group.

Research directions: 

  • Algae as bioremediation (water treatment)
  • Algae as bioremediation (sewage management)
  • Algae cultivation
  • Algae as coastal protection
  • Carriers of algae

Another group explored the potential of materials derived from algae by means of phytoremediation techniques applied to the blooms in the Venice Lagoon. These composite materials were obtained through mixing algae with ceramics, cellulose or alginates. The team performed a set of tests to find an optimal mixture for 3D printing and other possible applications, focusing on physical, aesthetical and sensorial qualities and their limits.

The workshop was led by Anne-Claire Hostequin, Carlotta Borgato, Daniel Bell and Johanna Weggelaar from Atelier LUMA.

Atelier LUMA is a programme of LUMA Arles based on the Parc des Ateliers in Arles since 2017. Atelier Luma is a research design platform that focuses on the ecosystems of the Camargue bioregion and develops practical applications while promoting local natural and cultural resources.

Guests: Olivia Page, Soo Jung Ryu.

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