Mussel shell


Made in

Animal material 63 Biodegradable 236 Circular 220 Composite 99 Polymer 40 Alginate 10 Vinegar 15

Mussel shell
Mussel shell
Mussel shell
Mussel shell
Mussel shell
Mussel shell
Mussel shell

Photos: Nicolás Hernández, Valentina Aliaga


INFAUNA is a collaborative project that delves into the morphological potential of a bioceramic material created from sea shells. Using an open-source fabrication device, the project produces unique parts that can be used to form a modular cladding system for interiors. Infauna incorporates the use of a biomaterial recipe based on Mytilus chilensis shells, created by LABVA, the design of a DIY shaping tool, and the pieces resulting from artisan manufacturing. This is an Argentina-Chile collaborative project by Heidi Jalkh, Nicolás Hernández and LABVA.

The recipe belongs to the biomaterial palette developed by LABVA from calcareous waste and its possibilities of conformation in the reaction with algae polymers (sodium alginate). The development of this recipe is considered as a cold bioceramic which performs a setting process from the reaction with an acid medium. This reaction triggers a cross-linking process of the material, determining its final shape.

Developing a biomaterial recipe also implies thinking about the ways in which matter takes shape. “The perceived value of a material is not always inherent within itself, but in the care, difficulty, and craft of its treatment within a culture. Taking a material outside of its established architectural application and studying its properties helps to reconsider its perceived value" (Thomas Schröpfer • Material Design, Informing Architecture by Materiality).

The device/tool ​​allows for exploring new morphological and sensory possibilities. It operates by adjusting various tensions, resulting in the creation of curves and counter curves, reproducing textures and shaping the limits and final forms of sculptural objects. Through this process, the material is modified both in its appearance and technical possibilities as well as its significance and cultural meaning.

The resulting geometries are the consequence of tuning the different variables: (1) Recipe of the biomaterial and the granulometry, density (2) Denier of the textile, the elasticity and resolution of the texture (3) Tessellated frame, the shape, size and degree of tension of the assembly of the fabric (4) Tension buttons/endings, the geometry of the buttons and the force/weight of the tension.

The explorations under this matrix result inunique and irreproducible pieces. When multiple units are combined, it creates a three-dimensional surface arrangement that gives new value to typically discarded domestic and industrial waste.

The origin of this biomaterial recipe revolves around the act of gathering and sharing a traditional Chilean dish, the 'cocimiento de choritos' (mussels or Mytilus chilensis), a bivalve mollusc native to the Chilean and Argentinian coasts. This dish involves the collection of mussels by coastal communities that are then sold at the Valdivia River Market. After cooking, the shells are washed and processed for later use in the biomaterial recipe.

In biology, 'Infauna' refers to the group of invertebrates that reside in the sediments of the seabed. They play a crucial role in the sedimentary process by dragging, excavating, feeding and irrigating the seabed. The shells and carcasses of molluscs and crustaceans serve as a substrate for other species and also help regulate the acidity and alkalinity of ecosystems by providing food and essential minerals, such as Calcium, for the biosynthesis of new organisms.

The project draws inspiration from the natural biodegradation process of shells on the seabed, which makes mineral resources available for the generation of new organisms. Through grinding, crushing, and sifting, we aim to recreate a morphology that echoes this process, where both mechanical and chemical degradation of calcium carbonate results in the generation of new calcareous species.

Text submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank. For information about reproducing (a part of) this text, please contact the maker.


Mytilus chilensis shells, alginate solution, vinegar


María José Besoain, Alejandro Weiss, Valentina Aliaga, Nicolás Hernández, Heidi Jalkh

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