Bio-glass made from mussel shells used to create a durable coating

London-based architecture studio Bureau de Change has collaborated with student artist Lulu Harrison to create a series of architectural bio-glass cladding tiles made from mussel shells. Harrison is a student in the Material Futures postgraduate program at UAL: Central Saint Martins in London.

Harrison’s bioglass is made from the crushed shells of quagga mussels mixed with sand and waste wood ash. An invasive species of mussel, quagga mussel shells often clog Thames Water transfer tunnels, and are removed and sent to landfill. Instead, by using mussel shells as a raw material in the production of bio-glass, Harrison was able to provide an eco-friendly solution to the problem.

Bureau de Change, led by Katerina Dionysopoulou and Billy Mavropoulos, worked with Harrison to explore the possibility of creating an environmentally friendly coating product from bioglass. Thames Glass, as the biomaterial is called, is completely hand-made, which would make each cladding tile unique in appearance with its own micro-texture and color. In addition, glass, infinitely recyclable, is a sustainable material. In this case, the glass is produced from discarded mussel shells as well as local waste, giving Thames Glass a high score in sustainability.

The collaboration between the architects and the artist has led to the creation of a series of cast glass facade tiles, whose patterns are inspired by the architectural history of London, in particular the terracotta chimney pots of the 19th century and city water pipes. These cladding tiles were exhibited at Beautility: How Fusing Beauty and Function Can Change the World, which was organized as part of London Craft Week held earlier this month.

Harrison explained that the exhibition was organized by Here Design to demonstrate how innovation in the biosphere can light the way to a more sustainable future. “Glass is made from waste crushed quagga mussel shells from Thames Water, local sands and waste wood ash to replace the highly processed and uneconomical materials that often go into everyday glass making,” she said.

Image: Lulu Harrison

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