Kathryn Larsen and Richard Groen study the effect of light on microalgae cultures and explore their pigmental qualities for new design practices.
Kathryn Larsen has completed the first part of her collaboration with Richard Groen, investigating how different light wavelengths affect the colour of microalgae to create bio-based pigments!
In the first part of her research, she worked in TU's Makers' Space where she designed the shell which will host the bioreactor. Her design will allow the bioreactor to be removed from the shells and sterilised, a necessary step when working with live materials.
For the second part of her residency, she will work in the BioLab with the help of Richard Groen. They will select the different types of microalgae most suitable for pigment production and grow the colonies in a controlled environment. The microalgae spores will be housed in the bioreactors and exposed to different wavelengths, thus producing differently pigmented colonies. Based on her preliminary research, Kathryn expects to be able to produce natural pigments from microalgae ranging from light yellow to dark blue.
These pigments will then be incorporated into her design practice in the form of translucent and colourful panels. Microalgae are not currently used in outdoor architecture because their colours fade with sunlight. However, Kathryn has started testing out biobased UV protective coatings which could open up the door for the broader application of this material within architectural disciplines.
Kathryn will continue her design and research practice into bio-materials and vernacular design practices in Denmark before returning to the Netherlands to complete the second part of her residency!
Kathryn Larsen is an architect and bio-designer. Her practice draws on often forgotten traditional construction techniques and natural building materials. Her research focuses on the use of seaweed and seagrass in architecture. She combines her practical architectural technologist education with a tactile design process, that involves sketching, drawing by hand, and material experimentation.
Kathryn graduated from TU Delft in 2022 and received several grants from Boligfonden Kubens Spirekasse to fund her experimental research practice. She presented her work at several conferences, including the Dutch Design Week in 2019, Design Indaba in 2020 and Biobaserede Byggematerialer in 2021.
Her 2018 thesis, "Seaweed Thatch Reimagined" was nominated as a finalist for several awards, including the 2020 SDG Copenhagen Tech Award’s People’s Choice. In 2021, her collective design and architecture work with eelgrass and kelp was a finalist for the 2021 Green Concept Award.