Edible Materials Lab explores resonant relationships between food and design in order to bring public attention to the nature of materials that define our built environment. Agar, one of these materials, is derived from the polymeric carbohydrate agarose, found in the cell walls of certain species of red seaweed. Agar is commonly used in food as a vegetarian alternative to gelatin and in microbiology as a growth medium in petri dishes. Commercially available in the form of powder, agar transforms into a gelatinous substance after boiled in combination with water, plasticizers, and other additives. Once cured, the solution forms a bioplastic that ranges from a thin and flexible film to thicker and more rigid sheets.
Without the addition of plasticizers, agar has a tendency to curl - naturally creating dynamic, sculptural forms. These forms can be controlled and aggregated based on defined rules that generated a modular system. This process allows for a dialogue between natural form-finding, computational design, and fabrication techniques.
The system was further adapted by parametrically simulating the natural curvature of the agar components using Grasshopper and Kangaroo, in order to create a material/formal system that could be 3D printed of agar. This allows for variable distribution of components, which can be controlled by various parameters, including the degree of curvature of the surface, gravity and other loads, and aesthetics. This system can be applied at various scales, ranging from products to furniture to architectural interventions. These applications take advantage of various properties of the material system, including its porosity, translucency, and sculptural qualities.
Another system for generating volume through the assemblage of many pieces of agar was explored in order to create a vertical blind. In this system, thin films of agar bioplastic are stacked together and fused through contact with a direct heat source. The texture of each film can be controlled by the substrate on which it is cured. By cutting, stacking, and folding films, different levels of opacity can be created. The resulting vertical blinds are biodegradable, unlike their PVC counterpart.