Bionests

Wevolve Labs designs sculptural lights crafted from biomaterials

Multidisciplinary collective Wevolve Labs has created bioplastic skins using local plants for a group of lantern-like sculptures, presented in Austin, Texas.

Called Bionest, the project comprises five free-standing sculptures that debuted at the 2021 Creek Show – an annual Austin event showcasing light-based art at Waller Creek.

Bionest installation
Bionest is a project that comprises five sculptures. Photo is by Patrick Wong

Wevolve Labs worked with the shapes of local plants and birds when designing the sculptures, which range from two to seven metres tall and have asymmetrically shaped exteriors crafted from biomaterial skins positioned on wooden stands.

Created specifically for the project, the skins' material is a bioplastic made from carrageenan, a seaweed extract.

Bioplastic skin
Bioplastic skins are positioned on wooden frames

Wevolve Labs combined powdered carrageenan with water and heat. The mixture was then cast into a mould and mixed with woven fibres to create a composite in order to strengthen the skins.

According to the collective, this material offers a petroleum-free alternative to traditional plastic.

Bioplastic illuminated sculptures
LED lighting illuminates the sculptures. Photo is by Alli Draper

"Each sculpture also contains plant matter harvested from different sites across west Texas, giving each one site-specific materiality," Wevolve Labs founder Nicholas De Bruyne told Dezeen.

In addition Waller Creek, the Texas locations include Marfa, Barton Creek and Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Centre, a botanical garden.

"The biomaterial's translucent quality highlights the ecology of the different regions within the material itself," De Bruyne said.

Steamed strips of oak were also woven together and then wrapped around each sculpture to create a grid-shell framework.

"The bent-wood structural design was inspired by the making of birds' nests, Indigenous forms of basketry and skin-on-frame boatmaking," explained De Bruyne.

Waller Creek installation
Bionest was exhibited at Waller Creek. Photo is by Leonid Furmansky

At night, programmable LED lighting illuminated each sculpture and transformed them into lanterns. This lighting was synchronised to a custom soundtrack.

Bionest was located at the Lebermann Plaza at Waterloo Park during the Waller Creek Show and is now available for acquisition.

Biomaterial sculpture
The designers used birds' nests as a reference

Founded in 2018, Wevolve Labs also designed a pavilion for a past Burning Man festival with a canopy resembling a bird-like dinosaur.

Other recent projects that use biomaterials include furniture by Carolina Härdh that was created for a restaurant out of its own food waste and bags by designer Meng Du that were made with alternative leather produced from leftover grape skins.

The photography is courtesy of Wevolve Labs unless otherwise stated.


Project credits:

Lead designer: Nicholas DeBruyne
Sponsors: Waterloo Greenway Conservancy, LeaAnn and Steve Fowler
Team: TanaVargas, Andrew Persoff Oroz, Darius Fontenette, Paloma Gonzalez, John Hickman, Chelsea Gonzalez, Colby Apple, Donald Miller and Marjorie and Michael DeBruyne
Material consultant: Zoë Powell Best
Lighting: Stephen Drake and ERT Lighting
Sound design: JPThwaits
Videographer: AaronTamez
Photographers: Alli Draper, Wevolve Labs, Lauren Slusher, Leonid Furmansky and Patrick Wong