LEXUS design award 2016: agar plasticity by AMAM winner of grand prix
image © designboom




since 2013, the LEXUS design award provides young innovators a platform to fund their works while receiving feedback from world renowned professionals in the area of design. the grand prize winner of this year’s LEXUS design award went to AMAM design group for their agar plasticity project, which explored marine algae as an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic for packaging materials. 



for the fourth time, designboom co-organized the LEXUS design awards, with ‘anticipation’ being this year’s theme
video © LEXUS




goods are usually (shipped) wrapped in plastic materials. once unwrapped, they soon become waste or are collected to be recycled. even with significant recycling efforts, plastic cannot (unlike aluminum and glass) be recycled over and over again. plastic is also notorious for its resistance to decomposition, with estimates placing its life cycle somewhere between 500 and 1,000 years. ANTICIPATING (the theme of this year’s LEXUS design award!) an effective and sustainable utilisation of natural resources has become crucial. 

the winners with the LEXUS design award 2016 trophy, the juror panel, mentors and finalists.
the japanese design team AMAM were mentored in their work by product and furniture designer max lamb
image © designboom




the AMAM collective researched seaweed-derived agar, which is traditionally consumed as food in japan, and is used in scientific and medical applications worldwide. considering that everyday packaging requires raw materials and energy to manufacture, the team produced a moldable agar which can not only be used as cushioning, but also as packaging material. after being used, agar products can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. it can serve as a material to improve the water retention property of soil, and should it reach oceans, it would not harm marine life. 

AMAM’s presented samples of their research ‘agar plasticity’ 
image © designboom




agar can be extracted by first boiling red algae and then dehydrating the mixture (its resultant state depends on the ways of dehydration, and the types of red algae). for a soft cushioning structure, we have frozen it, for a stiff film-like state, we compressed it. agar is also moldable. we propose it not only as a cushioning material, but also as packaging material.’ AMAM design group stated.

close-up, in a dry state, agar shows porous, feathery structure and is very light despite its volume
image © designboom




in the ‘verdict’, alice rawsthorn, as representative of the judging panel, expressed: ‘this is a bold and ambitious experiment, which aims to address one of the biggest pollution problems of our time. the designers have made tremendous progress during the course of the award cycle, particularly in devising a wide range of possible practical applications for the material. their success in doing so gives us confidence in their ability to tackle the many challenges and complexities they will face in continuing the development of the project.’ 

samples of different forms of agar — no more bubble wrap, the future of packaging is marine algae! 
image © designboom




the overall quality of the shortlisted entries are always very high’, states the jury. ‘interesting about judging the LEXUS design awards is that every year there are different proposals and solutions focused on essential social and humanitarian issues — that could benefit society’.

moldable, agar can be shaped for different purposes, soon your packages may arrive cushioned in seaweed
image © designboom

agar hardened can make bowls and tiles
image © designboom




‘we are currently designing a box-like package, which has a cushioning structure derived from the freezing process for delicate objects (like a fragrance bottle), cushioning sheets for wrapping, and nugget-like cushioning,’ explains kosuke araki of AMAM. ‘we are ultimately dreaming of replacing disposable plastic products, such as shopping bags, amenity goods prepared at hotels and so forth, with agar-derived plastic. we believe in that possibility, but unfortunately that is beyond our ability—[it’s] too technical and chemical for us to achieve by ourselves. so we hope some researchers become interested in our project and get in touch with us for a possible collaboration.’  

the gran prix winners AMAM (kosuke araki, noriaki maetani and akira muraoka) with mentor max lamb
image © designboom 





the 2016 encounter exhibition by LEXUS during milan design week




the LEXUS design award 2016 event space (featured in our previous article) was designed by formafantasma, an amsterdam-based, italian design duo. two kinetic installations and a tasting experience, created by yoji tokuyoshi (a milan-based japanese chef) underlined this year’s award theme: ANTICIPATION. the 12 finalists projects and 4 prototypes were featured in a gallery space that highlighted the experimental character of the works and gave insight into LEXUS design award’s philosophy and selection procedure. 


the LEXUS design award call for entries on designboom’s pages ended on october 18, 2015




after a first screening by LEXUS and designboom of the in total 1,232 submissions, 100 best projects were shortlisted and presented to the jury and mentors in a meeting in tokyo on november 20th. members of the japanese press attended the jury session. from the 100-shortlist, 12 finalists were selected after careful consideration and in january 2016, the 4 finalists were officially announced. in addition to ¥2.5 million ($23,000) that LEXUS made available for each of the competition’s four finalists, the young designers were paired with a mentor for over a three-month prototype development phase.

the 6 jury members – the president of LEXUS international mr. tokuo fukuichi; designboom’s chief editor birgit lohmann; architect toyo ito; design commentator alice rawsthorn and museum curators paola antonelli (MoMA NY) and aric chen (M+ hong kong)
… assisted by the mentors. 

the 4 mentors – designers and architects neri & hu (shanghai), max lamb (london), elena manferdini (los angeles) and snarkitecture (new york) 

open doors during milan design week (press and public attended) when the 12 finalist projects were personally presented by the designers to the six judges panel
image © designboom


(left): architect toyo ito analyzing the prototypes with alice rawsthorn (right): president of LEXUS international tokuo fukuichi 
image © designboom





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