SDG: #9 Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure
Kathryn Larsen is an American architectural technologist (Bygningskonstruktør
MAK) based in Denmark. From a young age, Kathryn has been interested in
vernacular architecture, and how local construction methods and materials can
be adapted into modern buildings.
In 2013, she took a gap year to Japan with CIEE to study Japanese intensively,
and documented her experiences with a sketchbook. From 2014-2015 she
studied architecture at Cornell University, before eventually transferring to the
Copenhagen School of Design and Technology (KEA), where she finished her
undergraduate degree in Architectural Technology and Construction
Management in 2019.
For her dissertation, Kathryn Larsen focused on the seaweed houses of Læsø,
and on eelgrass as a Danish building material, a topic without many English-
language resources. She designed an original research project under supervision
of KEA Material Design Lab, called Seaweed Thatch Reimagined, and built
prefabricated seaweed thatch panels designed for use on roofs and facades.
These panels were then installed on a weathering structure on the roof of the
school, to be studied for over a year. From March 2019, her research has been
supported by a grant from Boligfonden Spirekasse.
Kathryn hopes to grow her budding career, and continue to use her perspective
to create innovative solutions for a greener building industry.
Project: Seaweed Thatch Reimagined
For generations the island people of Læsø, just off the coast of the Danish mainland, made use of eelgrass, a type of seagrass found in Scandinavia and the British Isles, to create massive thatched roofs. This added a unique element to the island’s vernacular architecture.
Inspired by these thatching methods, Copenhagen School of Business and Design student Kathryn Larsen set out to create pre-fabricated thatch panels made from eelgrass for her project titled Seaweed Thatch Reimagined. These panels can be installed as a facade or roofing material that is slightly more minimalist and modern than the old Scandinavian thatching methods.
The eelgrass material, while rare, is a useful and sustainable building material. It is rot-resistant, fireproof, carbon-negative, waterproof and is also an insulating material. Larsen believes that there are ways to harvest and use this material without damaging the surrounding marine life.