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Brief Published: 12 Aug 2021

Arts Centre Interior Clad with Salt, Algae & Sunflower Waste

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Algae tiles, Luma Arles

A progressive palette of locally produced natural materials – derived from salt, algae and sunflower waste – has been used to clad the interiors of the Luma Arles arts centre in Provence, France, to help improve its eco credentials.  

Working in conjunction with the building’s American architect Frank Gehry, the materials were developed on-site by circular design lab Atelier Luma as lower-impact and locally focused solutions to traditional finishing products.

Salt panelling, which clads the lift lobby walls, was produced in the nearby Camargue salt flats through a natural process of crystallisation. The metal mesh framework was submerged in the mineral-rich waters, with the crystals forming on them over a two-week period fuelled simply by sun and wind. The resulting product has a premium crystalline quality. 

An acoustic material made from sunflower waste decks out a ground-floor bar. The cork-like panels are created using by-products from the building’s green energy supply – a biofuel extracted from locally grown sunflower seeds. Proteins from the flowers and fibres and pith from the stems are combined to make the insulating product. Atelier Luma is also developing a bioplastic made from the waste. See The New Plastics Roadmap for a similar material.

Finally, the toilets throughout are finished with injection-moulded algae tiles – an outcome of one of the design lab’s ongoing research projects into algae-derived local bioplastics. Harvested from the Camargue, the algae’s diverse and natural colouring is translated into a range of 20 different colour finishes.

These biomaterials are certified to be used in construction projects, and Atelier Luma is now seeking out partners to help commercialise them.

Algae’s carbon-sequestering abilities are making it an increasingly favoured resource for bioplastic production. Read more in The Plastics Landscape 2021. Meanwhile, as projected in our Look Ahead 2021, the mining of hyper-local materials is growing in significance. See our A/W 22/23 Materials Evolution for more on considerate, localised material sourcing and production.

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Algae tiles, Luma Arles
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Salt panels, Luma Arles
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Salt panels, Luma Arles
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Sunflower waste acoustic panels, Luma Arles
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