MOURN_ Studio Nienke Hoogvliet

Studio Nienke Hoogvliet is a design studio for material research, experimental and conceptual design. Nienke works as a freelance designer for different companies and institutions but also continues her research in self-initiated design projects. She founded her studio in 2013, after graduating from Lifestyle & Design at the Willem de Kooning Academy Rotterdam. She was determined to follow her heart: focusing on materials that can contribute to a more sustainable world.

In the project Mourn, Nienke redefines the concept of an urn as a storage device for cremation ashes: during our lifetime, we collect waste substances in our body that we can neither use, nor process further. Due to this, our remains can become a threat to our environment. Ash scattering fields and graveyards struggle with soil and groundwater pollution. The number of nutrients and toxins are rising due to the high amount of ash scatterings and burials that happen in a relatively small area. The problem mostly arises when ashes are scattered, because the substances are immediately available for the soil to use. To reduce the negative impact of toxins and nutrients, the release should be slowed down and regulated.

The Dutch Water authorities (united in the ‘Energy and Raw Materials Factory’) can reclaim a new sustainable material from wastewater – a bioplastic called PHA (Poly Hydroxy Alkanoate). Certain bacteria clean the waste water by eating the waste and create a fatty acid that is turned into a bioplastic. This material is similar to regular plastic but completely dissolves in nature. Small organisms in the soil can feed on PHA, which makes the process of biodegradability similar to that of wood.

In the project Mourn, Nienke mixes the cremation ashes with PHA creating an object that can be given back to nature as a whole. Since the bioplastic will degrade slowly, the ashes will be released slowly as well. This way, the release of nutrients and toxins in the ashes can be regulated by the shape of the urn (a solid shape will take longer to degrade than a slender shape). Because not every type of soil can process nutrients and toxins in the same way, we have distinguished three types of soil: over-fertilized soil, rich soil and poor soil. The shape of the urn is adjusted to the type of soil. This way local soil, flora and fauna can process the substances in the ashes at their own pace. So you can give yourself or your loved one back to nature in a responsible way.

Visit her page to know more about Mourn and discover other material researches such as RE-SEA ME!

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