fbpx Un:learn | takween


7 May - 6 June 2022
Facilitated by:

The first phase of the program focussed on "unlearning" previous knowledge and assumptions about materials and encouraged participants to delve deep into different aspects and topics of material innovation.

Un:learn is divided into four sections:

1:  Intro and Sustainable Materials
2:  Circularity
3:  Bio Innovation
4:  Processing


The first week began with questioning the meaning of innovative materials: What interdisciplinary questions should be asked to define if a material is one with sustainable and future-leading potential?

Experience talks:

Ivonne Radecker from Materialarchiv

Material-Archiv is an association founded in 2007, whose members research and provide information about raw materials in design, architecture, arts and crafts - to professionals as well as the general public. This education and knowledge transfer is being carried out in ten physical sample collections, closely linked to the content of the free database materialarchiv.ch. The network provides basic knowledge about materials, its systematics, backgrounds, procedures, applications as well as thematic references. Furthermore, Material-Archiv's exhibitions, tours, lectures and workshops contribute to tackle today's environmental and social challenges.


Henriette Waal from Atelier Luma

Henriette Waal is designer, brewer and co-initiator and Artistic Research Director of Atelier Luma’s research and design laboratory, a program of LUMA Arles, France. Atelier Luma’s multidisciplinary network explores possible scenarios for transforming consumer cultures and existing systems of production. Waal has been finalist in the Dutch Design Awards for her research in the Dutch countryside in 2013 and received the International Award for Public Art for her placemaking approach in 2011. She has been creating and supervising programmes for the Master Social Design at Design Academy Eindhoven since 2013. The program focuses on new social roles for designers attuned to contemporary ecological and social challenges. At Atelier Luma Waal is currently leading a research in Mediterranean wetlands contributing to new transnational ways to organise and make design integrating remote southern european, african and near eastern wetlands communities.

Atelier Luma

Expert Lecture:

Mareike Gast

Mareike Gast has been a professor in industrial design with a focus on materials, technology & sustainability at Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle since 2016. Her teaching and research are focused on the development of (more) sustainable material interactions and transformation processes as well as the examination of the potentials and risks of biotechnology. She is co-initiator and project manager of the BurgLabs, a platform for design-based and interdisciplinary research in the fields of sustainability, biotechnology, AI and robotics. Since 2010 she has run her office for industrial design in Frankfurt am Main.
Image credit: Matthias Ritzmann

Mareike Gast

Field Trip:

For their first field visit as part of the Circular Design program, participants from Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon went on local excursions to explore different types and uses of recycling and bio materials.

In Iraq, participants visited plastic recycling factories in Baghdad and Mosul as well as an olive and a palm tree farm. In Lebanon, participants visited Live Love Recycle as well as a lab that upcycles plastic into stools. In Jordan, a trip down to Iraq Al Amir introduced participants to ceramics, paper-making and weaving, the materials used and their connection to the surrounding.


The second week addressed concepts of circularity such as upcycling and urban mining, and dived deep into sustainable materials of the athropocene. Particular focus was given to the mind-changing approach by the author of 'Cradle To Cradle', Prof. Michael Braungart. He introduced the concept of a positive footprint, shifting the focus from avoiding bad to creating positive impacts on the environment. According to him, products should be designed so that they become part of either the bio-sphere or the technosphere, which are closed circles and produce no waste.

Experience talks:

Jannis Kempkens from Precious Plastic

Jannis is a designer and material researcher working on the intersection of design, science and activism. He is co-founder of Circology, a circular design and material research studio supporting companies in their journey towards circularity and in his role focussing on the design and materiality of the products we create as well as the systems that come with them. He is creator and director of the Circular Economy program at Terra.do, the world’s largest online climate learning platform and community for professionals looking to pivot their career towards climate solutions. Additionally he works with the Precious Plastic community on driving bottom-up development of new techniques and materials for a world with less plastic pollution.

Precious Plastic

Wael Al Awar from waiwai design

Wael Al Awar founded waiwai (formerly ibda design) in 2009 as the principal architect, after moving back to the Middle East from Tokyo. With interests in natural phenomena, landscape and formless diagrams of relations, Wael has a multi-disciplinary approach to design and is always looking to challenge conventional processes to push the boundaries of design. His projects layer his individual design sensibilities into an architecture of natural light, time, structure and landscape. By aligning with natural phenomena, Wael seeks to create an architecture that is more than man-made fabrication, but instead remains open to adaptation and appropriation. The spaces that emerge from his approach are site-specific provocations that encourage unexpected experiences, activities and behaviors. Wael Al Awar is currently a Curator of the National Pavillion of the UAE for the 17th Architecture Bienalledi Venezia 2020 & 2021 and winner of the Golden Lion Award.

waiwai design

Expert Lecture:

Professor Dr. Michael Braungart

Michael Braungart is professor at the Leuphana University Lüneburg and founder of EPEA, Environmental Protection and Encouragement Agency in Hamburg (Germany), ‘The cradle of Cradle to Cradle’. He is also co-founder of McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) in Charlottesville, Virginia and founder of the Hamburger Environmental Institute (HUI). For decades, Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart has pioneered the Cradle to Cradle design concept. He has worked with a number of organizations and companies across a range of industries, and has developed tools for designing eco-effective products, business systems and intelligent materials pooling. In 2019 Michael Braungart was awarded the Goldene Blume von Rheydt (Golden Flower of Rheydt), the oldest environmental protection award in Germany, for his work.


Urban Mining / Upcycling Anthropocene with Jannis Kempkens

This workshop introduced system design techniques to playfully think about a product in a circular way.

3. Bio Innovation

The third week moved to the biosphere and bio-innovations, exploring old and new materials that can fully biodegrade. Focus was given to different compositions, recipies, current research in the field and existing areas of application.

Experience talks:

Thomas Lamparter from Olivenleder

Having grown up in a tannery Thomas Lamparter became an Engineer in Leather and Shoe Technology and holds an MBA in General Management. He has worked as Program Manager for Automotive Leather company Eagle Ottawa. In Finance at Mercedes-AMG and for Bader Leather as Key Account Manager. In 2014 Thomas joined wet-green as Head of Sales. wet-green has developed an award winning and globally patented tanning agent based on by-products of olive growing to make the so called „Olivenleder“. In his present role he is actively supporting brands and tanneries globally who aim to become more sustainable and circular.


Suzana Gombosova - Malai

Malai is a start up based in Kerala, India with Slovak roots. We specialise in research and development of biocomposite materials based on Bacterial Cellulose grown on waste from coconut processing industry. All our material development aspires to provide truly circular materials for an array of industries starting with plant based alternative to leather.


Expert Lecture:

Charlene Smith from Materiom

Charlene Smith leads life-friendly chemistry research and application at Materiom. She received her doctorate in Chemistry from The University of Manchester, specialising in the formulation and analysis of single-molecule magnets, through to the applications of nanotechnology. She now divides her time between freelancing at creative design labs and chemistry consulting at material innovation studios. An integral part of her work is to advocate STEAM agendas and Circular Economies through design led initiatives. Charlene is a visiting researcher at the Royal College of Art, working on cross disciplinary projects in collaboration with the School of Design, CERN and Burberry.



This workshop introduced simple compositions and recipies for bio plastics to do at home or in the lab.

Claudia Simonelli from Textile Academy

Claudia is an italian Industrial Designer currently based in Amman, Jordan. Since 2013 she has been developing her passion crafting projects between photography, digital art and design, including interactive design products, personal photo exhibitions and installations. Her experience at Fab Lab Toscana in 2016 allowed her to get digital fabrication skills and co-found Fabctory - recipes for innovation; a lab spin-off, focused on training, setting labs, co-design and prototyping for companies. During the last few years, she has co-organized workshops and crafted training programs for students, professionals and makers all over the world, being a speaker at international events. Since 2017 she is part of the core team of the Fabricademy and the local instructor of the Program at the Fab Lab Techworks in Amman.

4. Processing

The fourth week was all about processing and understanding different techniques that are relevant for the types of bio and recycled materials at hand. Examples included digital fabrication, craft techniques, fiber processing and regenerated organics. Moreover, the week addressed related approaches to designing sustainable products such as bio-mimicry which broadened the context in which the topic of innovative materials can be understood.

Experience talks:

Abeer Seikaly

Abeer Seikaly is a Jordanian-Palestinian interdisciplinary artist, architect, designer, and cultural producer. Her practice is deeply rooted in acts of memory: journaling, documenting, archiving, and collecting. She views her practice as a social technology for cultural empowerment. Her recent works center indigenous Bedouin knowledge and practices, to recover the intimacy of handmaking—lost in today’s production. She has been regularly traveling to Jordan’s Badia (desert), where she engages in Bedouin women’s craftsmanship of tent making and textile weaving. Abeer won the Lexus Design Award, for her ongoing work, Weaving a Home. She is the co-founder of Amman Design Week. She established “ālmamar,” a cultural experience and residency program in Amman, Jordan. Yale University awarded Abeer an endowed professorship. She was appointed as the Louis I. Kahn Visiting Assistant Professor at the Yale School of Architecture.

Abeer Seikaly

Adeeb Dada from The Other Dada

Adib Dada is the founder of theOtherDada [tOD] Regenerative Consultancy & Architecture firm, which mission is to activate projects across architecture, living systems, and art. Based on Biomimicry thinking, tOD’s work promotes a symbiotic relationship between nature and the built environment by exploring new ways of creating generous and regenerative buildings; in essence working with nature to develop resilient and generous cities. Adib earned a BA in Architecture at the American University of Beirut - Lebanon, a Master’s Degree in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU – USA, completed the Biomimicry graduate certificate from the Biomimicry Institute and Arizona State University and a certificate in Ecosystem Restoration Design. Adib has been recognized in Apollo Magazine's 40 Under 40 as a Patron of the Arts in the Middle East, and was listed as one of GOOD Magazine’s GOOD 100 for his project Beirut RiverLESS, which aims to regenerate the deteriorated Beirut River. Adib is a Fellow of the Middle East Leadership Initiative, a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, and a Bio-Leadership Fellow, a community helping transform human systems and the paradigm of leadership by working with nature. Adib is firmly committed to the UN Decade of Action, engaged on rewilding the city and reclaiming public space by planting native Miyawaki forests in urban landfills through his new initiative: theOtherForest, a nature-based tool for ecological and social regeneration.


Stephanie Kahnau

Stephanie Kahnau is a Munich based textile designer and lecturer working in fashion and fine arts. Each item or object is individually created with a strong focus on textile characteristics: her work combines traditional techniques with experimental and unusual materials and is enhanced by the use of minimalistic shapes. The label STEPHANIE KAHNAU has been running for 10 years now. She designs and produces in her own studio and sells the individual pieces in the adjoining store called "HIER– Studio and Store for local design". Since 2014 Stephanie Kahnau is also working as a lecturer in different Universities such as the "Akademie Mode und Design München" and was invited for guest lectures at the "Chelsea College of Arts" or "Kunsthochschule Kassel". Cooperation Partners: Manufactum, Adidas, Glypthotek Munich, AAGold, MaximiliansForum Munich.

Stephanie Kahnau

Expert Lecture:

Katrin Krupka

Since 2014, Katrin is working independently in the field of design and universitary teaching with a special focus on new sustainable materials and processes for product design. Her studio is based in Berlin, she teaches at different Universities like UDK Berlin, Burg Giebichenstein, Berlin International and Bauhaus Universität Weimar. She is furthermore Co-founder of German design Graduates. As Project Leader she is working on Strategy and operating business. The initiative supports young graduates with Awards & Support formats funded by German Design Council. Image credits: Mirja Zentgraf

Katrin Krupka

Field Trip:

For the second field trip of the Circular Design program, the participants from Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon went on small excursions to explore the wide field of processing materials.

In Jordan, a talk by Basma Omar from Grounded Stream introduced her newly launched natural and eco-friendly product development and supply network while a visit to the Plasticity.jo site in Marka introduced the participants to the Precious Plastic community.

In Iraq, the field trip took place in four cities simultaneously (Baghdad, Erbil, Mosul and Sulaymaniyah) where the participants each visited a maker space including the Suli Innovation House and Mosul Space, as well as a crafts processing site including pottery, wool and copper such as at Sêv Gallery in Erbil.

In Lebanon, the designers visited the Bits to Atoms research, digital design and robotic fabrication studio to learn about the role of digital fabrication in material innovation, and ended their trip at Papyrus Atelier who make handmade items by upcycling paper.

Other visited sites included: TechWorksJo, IoT Maker, Erbil Innovation House and ArD TechLab.

Other Modules: