Living Seawalls are revolutionising the way we think about and build in the oceans.
Sydney Institute of Marine Science & Volvo
Development and urbanisation often mean that our shorelines are dominated by seawalls, which stabilise reclaimed land and protect property from inundation, however these seawalls come at an ecological cost. Through innovative design the Living Seawalls team have developed habitat panels that mimic the features of natural habitats, bringing marine life back to developments across the world.
In 2018, Volvo Cars Australia collaborated with the Living Seawalls team from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science to install one of the first Living Seawalls on the shoreline below the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.
In the three years since that installation, Living Seawalls have expanded to over sixteen sites within Australia, and internationally, in Singapore, Gibraltar and Wales. At all locations - within hours to days - the panels have been colonised by species such as snails and crabs, followed by filter feeding animals such as oysters, barnacles and mussels, as well as seaweeds.
These organisms play key roles in our oceans. Filter feeders, such as oysters, are considered ‘water cleaning powerhouses’ with the capacity to filter litres of water per day, naturally improving water quality. Seaweeds have an enormous ecological and economic importance, serving not only as habitat for other species and sequestering carbon, but also as an important resource in pharmaceutical, energy and food industries. And the benefits of Living Seawalls also extend to fish, which seek shelter in the habitat provided and which benefit from the enhancement of their food sources.
Beyond their ecological value, Living Seawalls deliver an aesthetic language to capture the hearts of the public. The interconnecting panels designed by Reef Design Lab are reminiscent of an ancient mosaic pattern and create a dynamic environmental asset where art and ecology meet. This aesthetic language is essential to begin influencing a cultural shift towards a more ecologically inclusive way of building in the marine environment.
This shift is already taking place, with the Living Seawalls project now featured in several high profile exhibitions around the world including the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York, the Design Museum in London, and the Helsinki Design Museum.
This focus on design, and innovation make Volvo, and Living Seawalls ideal partners. Volvo are doing things differently and innovating for a better, more sustainable life and Living Seawalls provide an exceptional example of exactly that. Showing how modern divergent thinking can be scaled to resolve global environmental issues.
It’s an uplifting and human story, harnessing young ingenuity and visionary partners to reengineer our urban coastlines so they can support thriving marine ecosystems for future generations.