Venice Biennale Part 3: Seaweed Foraging Practicum

Alix Daguin

Our installation arriving this week for the Venice Biennale highlights the inextricable link between humans and ocean by showcasing positive, local and small-scale initiates that individuals have taken to honor the vast, bountiful and delicate ocean.  These individuals inspired me to learn more about local marine sustainable food practices that are all about honoring the ocean. I went on a practicum hosted by Salt Point Seaweed to forage seaweed along the Northern Californian coast. Of course, there is a connection to Architecture and the Built World.

There are four approaches to working with historic buildings as defined in the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. They include:

Focuses on the maintenance and repair of existing historic materials and retention of a property’s form as it has evolved over time.
Acknowledges the need to alter or add to a historic property to meet continuing or changing uses while retaining the property’s historic character.
Depicts a property at a particular period of time in its history, while removing evidence of other periods.
Re-creates vanished or non-surviving portions of a property for interpretive purposes.

In our practice at RDS we are most interested in rehabilitation. We believe in carrying into the future our historic commonwealth, but we also believe we only truly carry it into the future if it is relevant and useful to us. Examples could be the useful running water, bathrooms and electric lighting that now exist in Italy’s historic royal palazzos that house international art exhibits every year. Some of the more interesting interventions may take old banks, churches or castles and affect them so they are more relevant to our needs by turning them into hotels, restaurants, schools, etc. Sometimes this is done well, sometimes less so; but this route of user involvement is one that, as Designers, we are most interested in.

With this mindset, we looked at the public common wealth of our oceans and identified individuals- shall we say rehabilitators- who go about affecting the ocean in a way that creates connection & bounty and ensures its survival and relevance.

Foraging culinary seaweeds is a way to connect with the ocean. You learn about tides, ecosystems, best practices for foraging and ensuring growth, the rare and protected species, and the invasive ones to pick freely. You get your hands dirty and rummage through the shallows to fill your belly. You are ‘taking’ from the ocean, no doubt. But, you are also taking part in something larger, and that is not a zero-sum game.