NGV Triennial

Pirjo Haikola
Urchin Corals



From Tasmania to Northern California and up to the Arctic, lush kelp forests thriving in cold, nutrient-rich waters offer one of the ocean’s most bio-diverse ecosystems. They are crucial for a healthy planet, both above and below the surface. Around the world, these ecosystems are being devastated by steady rises in ocean temperatures, increasing nutrient levels, and an explosion in sea urchin populations. Sea urchins are capable of reducing kelp forests to wastelands, which poses a major threat to the ongoing survival of many marine species and habitats.

Combining her skills as a designer, researcher and SCUBA diving instructor, Dr Pirjo Haikola has focused her practice on developing a commercial use for sea urchins to reduce the threat to marine life. In Urchin Corals 2020, she has developed a landscape of 3D-printed corals from a new material manufactured from the shells and spikes of the Purple sea urchin (Heliocidaris erythrogramma) and the Black sea urchin (Centrostephanus rodgersii) blend with biopolymers.

The sea urchin material presented in Haikola’s Triennial installation is part of ongoing investigation into the beneficial properties of sea urchin shells and has led to a collaboration on material development and testing for coral reef restoration purposes.

Dr Pirjo Haikola is a designer, researcher and scuba diving instructor. Her work investigates how design can contribute to regenerating marine ecosystems and creating awareness of marine problems.

Haikola is a Lecturer and Industry Fellow in Design Innovation and Technology at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. She has held positions at Aalto University in Finland, IADE University in Portugal and the Why Factory future cities research group at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. Dr Haikola earned her PhD as a Marie Curie Fellow within a network of European Universities at the University of Aveiro in Portugal and has a Master’s degree from Design Academy Eindhoven, the Netherlands.

The NGV warmly thanks Triennial Supporters Brendan & Grace O’Brien for their support.

This project is proudly supported by NGV Design Partner RMIT University.