Cesare Griffa is an architect and an algae-designer.

He spent some years working for big architectural firms such as Zaha Hadid Architect, Arata Isozaki, ARUP and ArchA, and in the Academia at Politecnico di Torino, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Istituto Europeo del Design (IED), and Domus Academy.

In his practice, he uses micro-algae as living material for design and architecture.

In 1929 British scientist J. B. S. Haldane wrote a paper called “The Origins of Life” where he invents the concept of primordial soup. In his late life, Haldane moved to India, stop wearing socks, became vegetarian and study Hinduism as a form of practice of freedom.

In my Algae Design there is a bit of this original soup that is the origin of us all. It’s a free investigation (it should be made without wearing socks) that searches for answers to the question: how can we use the Primordial Soup Magic again to engage with a brighter future?



The Palienish is Cesare’s signature. It comes from a cross breeding of a Panda with an Alien and a Fish.

The Panda is white, black and asian and eats bamboo. It’s an open minded creature concerned about the future. The Alien comes from outer space. It’s a special creature that thinks laterally. The Fish swims smoothly in the water. It’s an elegant creature that moves fast and silently.

So it’s the Palienish, an open minded, special, smooth creature that thinks differently, moves silently, and is concerned about the future.

What is Design?

Design is the activity of humans that make things. When our ancestors appeared, they had nothing. The oldest flint tools were the very first attempt of early humans to modify nature. These people were among the very few creatures around without fangs and claws. Difficult time for them in the wild. They had no alternatives for survival, they had to make artificial ones.

Design is a celebration of human ingenuity. It’s what distinguishes our species from other animals. Early hunters gatherers began making things to modify their bodies. From the agricultural revolution, humans began to make things to modify their environment. The goal was the same: to gain a better quality of life.

Design is about the love affair between humanity and its planet. Like all animals, also humans use what is given them by mother Earth to grant the continuity of their species. But since they were driven out of the garden of Eden, they had to fight hard to find what they need, began to work on making more and more things, and eventually the story went out of control.

Design is hope in the future. At the dawn of the industrial area, humans began to make things that would create a benefit in the short period, and destroy humanity in the larger perspective. When they realised this perverse effect, humans began to project things for a better future. It’s a hard task, but humanity went through even more difficult ones.

What is Algae Design?

Working with algae is about exploring the origins of life. A long time ago in a galaxy called the Milky Way, micro-algae were the first living creatures appeared in planet Earth’s primordial soup. They transformed the planet atmosphere and created the conditions for latter non photosynthetic creatures like humans to appear. We come from algae.

Working with algae is about reflecting on the brevity of human presence. Our ancestors, the first homo, appeared only a few hundred thousands years ago. We think we are the rulers, but we are the last arrived. We think we are destroying the planet, but we are only destroying our life support system.

Working with algae is about the power of simplicity. Micro-algae have been on the planet much longer than humans. And they will probably survive us. They are among the tiniest and apparently most fragile creatures. We are more complex and believe to be stronger. But the truth is that hey are much more resilient and capable of adaptation than we are. We have a lot to learn from them.

Working with algae is about the future. Today, humans have a problem with their planet. Algae might offer us some support. They are the ones who created the condition for our life here. We can ask them for some help.


Design teams have included: Antonio Ravarino, Federico Rizzo, Davide Iannici, Andrea Vissio, Stefania Totis, Silvio De Iaco, Marco Cuccuru, Claudio Cannucciari, Dario Nocera, Pietro Perlino, Tibor Antony, Nikolaos Argyros, Matteo Amela, Federico Borello, Marco Caprani, Gianni Bruera, Marco Mignone, Max Manno, Denise Giordana, Chiara Tournour, Federica di Iorio, Mauro Fassino, Davide del Giudice

Almost all photographs are by Federico Rizzo (Torino)


Works have been widely exhibited including the Venice Biennale, Ljubljana Biennal of Design, Share Festival, Milano Design Week, Dutch Design Week, Dubai Design Week, DRIVE Volkswagen Group Forum with Ars Electronica, ITU Telecom World Conference, Trinity College Science Gallery.


search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close