The Sustainable Design Program

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MENA DESIGN RESEARCH CENTER, IN COLLABORATION WITH THE DESIGN DEPARTMENT AT ACADÉMIE LIBANAISE DES BEAUX-ARTS, IS VERY PROUD TO PRESENT THE SUSTAINABLE DESIGN EXHIBITION, ITS FIRST-EVER CURATED EXHIBITION. For five years now, MENA DRC has encouraged the Lebanese design community through its annual festival, Beirut Design Week. The Sustainable Design Exhibition amplifies our commitment to design in Lebanon by supporting young and experienced designers while also attempting to shape design processes in the country. Building off of the energy of Beirut Design Week 2016 and its theme of sustainability, MENA DRC put together the Sustainable Design Program, a two-month intensive product design training program aimed at introducing participants to new materials and processes. Lebanese designers are often limited to resources available in the region, including plastic, metal, and wood, which also tend to be harmful to the environment. In order to overcome this challenge, the Sustainable Design Program, under the guidance of three renowned international experts, encouraged designers to create their own production methods by exploring, mixing, and transforming different unconventional and locally-sourced materials in order to design their sustainable textures.

Over the course of three weeks, designers convened at ALBA’s woodshop and participated in three workshops that introduced methods and processes aimed at creating environmentally-, socially-, and economically-minded products that use low energy, produce less waste, while also protecting public health and environmental interests over the course of their entire life cycle. Following the three workshops, designers moved into a production phase, where they applied lessons from the workshops to their own work and experimented with new materials in order to create an exciting line of sustainable products. The Sustainable Design Exhibition brings together the best of these products in an effort to raise awareness around the role of sustainability in design, and in particular, we hope that these artifacts will demonstrate to the local design community that exceptional, high-end products can be born of sustainable materials and processes. This publication is an effort to document the Sustainable Design Program, with all of its trials and tribulations, and to celebrate this extraordinary turn in Lebanese design.


Marjan van Aubel (Netherlands) is a designer of materials and objects, whose practice spans the fields of science and chemistry. She is a graduate of the Royal College of Art’s Design Products Programme (MA) and Rietveld Academy’s DesignLAB (BA). Her research process blends scientific precision with sensory responsiveness to develop aesthetic solutions for the future. Van Aubel’s objects make tangible the potential of technology and energy-harvesting for the benefit of the living environment. At the heart of her collection is a series of innovative materials, from foam porcelain to integrated solar cells based on the properties of color. Intuitive and inquisitive, she believes interdisciplinary practice is the way forward for design.


2-5 MARCH 2016

Van Aubel has collaborated with scientists and manufacturers including Solaronix and The American Hardwood Export Council. She has exhibited at world-class institutions such the Victoria and Albert Museum, Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, and the Design Museum in London, where she has been nominated for the Design of the Year Awards twice (in 2013 and 2015). Her work is part of the permanent collection of the Vitra Design Museum, The Montreal Museum of Art, and MoMA New York. She won the Swarovski Emerging Talent medal in 2015, the ARC13 Chair Award, and the First Prize Dutch DOEN/ Materiaalprijs in 2012. She was shortlisted for the Arts Foundation Material Innovation Award in 2014 and is considered by the Design Council as a one to watch; one of 70 designers representing the future of British Design.

The Sustainable Design Program workshop series commenced with renowned Dutch designer Marjan Van Aubel and her take on material alchemy, or the creative process of discovering and creating new product materials. Participants convened in the Design Department at AcadĂŠmie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (ALBA), where Van Aubel gave a presentation on her own process of material development, before guiding students through the experience of discovering and developing their own materials for the first time. At the core of the workshop was the idea that by mixing and combining organic waste with other ingredients, one can discover new materials and identify their properties. Participants developed and fine-tuned recipes for their materials, and they relied primarily on tools available in most kitchens, including microwaves and blenders. The workshop included a trip to Akl Decor, a furniture factory located in Mkalles that specializes in detailed woodwork, where participants observed the kind of waste created during the manufacturing process and pondered possible uses for that waste.

Encouraging each participant to become an expert in one kind of material, the workshop led to experimentations with coffee grounds, cornstarch, wood dust, dried leaves, recycled styrofoam, and rice. This workshop was the perfect start to the Sustainable Design Program, because it asked participants to think critically about new materials and to be brave in experimentation and trial and error-skills that they carried with them during the next two workshops and the production phase of the program.



Renée Boute is a 28 year-old designer based in Utrecht, Holland. A graduate of the University of the Arts Utrecht, in 2012 she took the plunge and started her own design studio. With a background in product and graphic design, she has extensive knowledge of materials and work programs, which she applies to her own work. Her projects are based on thorough research into crafts, culture, sustainability, materials, and nature. Giving value to worthless material is central to her work, and she seeks out opportunities to work in different industries and collaborations, where research is the basis of her work. For example, working at the De Middelste Molen paper facotry, she created

paper out of discarded peppers, eggplants, apples, strawberries, and other products from farms around the Netherlands at the paper making factory. With this paper, she made a unique cookbook, which shows that fruits and vegetables from Class 3 don’t belong on the compost heap. Together with a chef, she wrote a number of recipes using rejected fruits and vegetables as the main ingredient. Currently she is collaborating and giving advice to various companies and industries in creating a new purpose for their waste materials.


9-12 MARCH 2016

The second workshop in the Sustainable Design Program series featured the expertise of RenĂŠe Boute, a Dutch designer who specializes in using organic waste in her products. Meeting once again in the Design Department at ALBA, participants worked in groups and each focused on a different kind of organic waste. Boute guided the participants through a series of activities aimed at helping them understand the properties of the materials they were working with and turning those materials into products. Participants, working in groups, began by examining the various waste streams in Lebanon before settling on one stream to focus on throughout the course of the workshop. After a brief period of desk research about the selected waste streams, Boute demonstrated her own paper-making process in order to inspire participants to think creatively about what can be done with waste.

Groups then experimented with waste and mixed it with various organic substances in order to give it 2D and 3D form. At each stage, groups documented ingredients so that they could compare the various iterations. This workshop ultimately trained participants in both rigorous research and the creative solutions that come out of detailed exploration and documentation, crucial skills on their path to the final Sustainable Design Exhibition.




16-19 MARCH 2016

Since she was a young child, Dutch designer Debbie Wijskamp (1984) has been interested in interiors and creating things. After graduating from ArtEZ Academy of Art and Design in Arnhem in 2009, she began operating her own design practice in her studio in Arnhem. She pushes the boundaries of materials to create new possibilities for objects like furniture and interior products. Much of Debbie’s work is made from ‘upcycled’ materials. She has a special interest in working with old paper. She is currently designing and producing her own collection of (interior) products and other objects. Wijskamp gets inspired by everyday objects and materials that surround her. She likes to investigate the boundaries of various materials and techniques to find out what possibilities they offer to create new objects like furniture and interior products. Her work, especially her PaperPulp collections, has been exhibited around the world.

The Sustainable Design Program workshop series concluded with a workshop by Debbie Wijskamp, a Dutch designer who works with recycled paper. Perhaps the most focused of the workshops, this three-day event emphasized paper-making and paper-made products. Wijskamp walked participants through the process of making recycled paper, which began with hours of tearing paper waste in order to create a pulp that would form the basis for the rest of the workshop. She then instructed participants on how to use that pulp to mold 3D shapes. Participants experimented with a variety of colors and shapes, including cylindrical and round shapes.

This workshop was the perfect conclusion to the Sustainable Design Program, becauseafter two workshops that emphasized material experimentation-Paper Made emphasized molding 3D shapes, a skill that could be transferred and applied to the new materials created in previous workshops. In fact, in this workshop, participants drew on the skills they learned in the first two workshops, and it was clear that they were ready to hit the studios and begin work on their own projects.

SUSTAINABLE DESIGNERS ANTOINE FADEL Driven by a desire to create since childhood, Antoine Fadel is an architect and artist. He received his master’s in architecture in 2015 from Holy Spirit University. He has participated in workshops on architecture, urban planning, and digital art in Russia, Turkey, France, and Italy, and directed a short film, “My Apologies to Beirut” (2014), which was selected by the Beirut International Film Festival and Cinema Days in Palestine.

CARINE NAWBAR Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Carine Nawbar is a product design student at Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts. Passionate about product design, she aims to become a successful designer and to make an impact on the Lebanese design scene. Carine worked as a volunteer in “Naked: Beyond the Social Mask,” a design exhibition in 2015, and later earned a full scholarship from House of Today for the 2015-2016 academic year.

CHRISTINA SKAF Christina Skaf is a graphic designer constantly searching for new materials to expand her visual language. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from the American University of Beirut, she co-founded Studio Kawakeb, a visual arts studio based in Beirut. Christina is also a member of WARAQ Association, a platform for artists, designers and illustrators in Lebanon.

GHYDA KANAAN Ghyda Kanaan is a second-year product design student at Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts. Crafty since a child, she is motivated by creating new things from different materials and the opportunity to manipulate with her bare hands. Ghyda, an ambitious and motivated person, aims to volunteer with humanitarian and environmental causes, and her contribution to the Sustainable Design Program is a testament to her commitment to sustainability and environmental activism.

LEA KIRDIKIAN Lea Kirdikian is a product designer with a thrive for eco-conscious products and eco-friendly ethics. After receiving a master’s degree from ALBA, she collaborated with Xavier Baghdadi to form an upcycling collective called Junk Munkez, that hosts workshops and creates products. Lea has participated in Milan Design Week, Salon Satellite, Beirut Design Week, and House of Today, and her work has been featured in publications like “Art Without Waste,” “Ottagono,” and Curves and design websites like “Inhabitat” and “TreeHugger”.

MAYA TEHINI Maya Tehini is an interior architect and fashion designer, who obtained a bachelor’s degree in interior architecture from the Lebanese American University, and she received a master’s degree in fashion design from IED Barcelona. Maya’s professional experience includes serving as the managing director of Sari El Khazen Architects, where she also worked for two years as an interior architect.

NOUR ABDO Nour Abdo graduated from the American University of Science and Technology in 2014 with a degree in interior design. A brief stint in an architecture firm proved to her that her real interests lie in product design. She then worked at a product design concept store focusing on the “fashion of the table” and home objects. Her work exposed her to many international and local product designers along with different aspects following the design phase such as marketing, visual merchandising, and sales management.

MURIEL KAI Inspired by different cultures and Mother Nature, Muriel Kai is a student in product design at Académie Libanaise de Beaux Arts. Throughout Muriel’s studies, she has learned that the process of design is timeless. For Muriel, product design is not just about making the object pretty, it is more about creating new experiences with known products and identifying new ways to improve lifestyles by reducing or completely eliminating negative environmental impact through thoughtful designs.

PAOLA SAKR Paola Sakr is a Lebanese product designer and photographer. Through her passion for innovation, she aims to make the world a better place.

RIWA FARHAT Riwa Farhat is a second-year product design student at ALBA. Although she was originally planning to pursue a career in interior architecture, her love for creating and handcrafts pushed her towards product design. She is passionate about sustainable design, and her inspiration comes from everything that surrounds her.

TIFFANY RIZK Tiffany Rizk is a second-year product design student at ALBA. Although she initially wanted to be a fashion designer, she has since thrown herself into a career as a product designer. She is influenced by the simplicity and minimalism at the same time that she is compelled by street art, which she considers as a living testimony of society.



The content of daily news is slowly digested and forgotten in the waste basket at the end of the day. This composite of unwanted, chewed up information has become the basis for creating something new and lasting in PulpLight, a series of lampshades made out of newspapers and papers. The pulp lamp’s recycled material and organic shapes provide a new take on what a light fixture can do. Light elegantly flows from the porous surface and creates soft shadows around the room, complementing the decor of the interior and completely transforming its atmosphere.



Pebble is not just an object. It is a lifestyle. Filled with energy and designed to embrace your feet, this vessel is truly a source of relaxation. Whether placed next to a pool or in a living room, this playful support transforms and changes as it moves. Pebble is animated by a lively substance that was discovered through a series of experiments with cornstarch and will be available in a variety of vivid colors. By foregrounding this experimentation in corn starch, Pebble challenges us to reflect on our purchasing behavior and encourages us to recognize that gentle materials can make innovative designs in a sustainable world.


Freaquation is a new generation of leather that effortlessly moves between sustainability, functionality, and beauty. Discovered by accident during a series of experiments with environmentally-friendly materials, this new leather comes as a thin layer that can be creased or crumpled without becoming deformed or torn. Durable and subtly translucent, Freaquation can be used in a variety of ways, from curtain panels and lampshades to bags and coasters. Because the translucent material offers the perfect screen for silhouettes, it is particularly well-suited for room separators, where it will offer privacy but will also connect the rooms through the presence of shadows and movement.



Peel’d is an approach to the current national garbage crisis, which is unique globally because most of our waste is organic. Citrus, avocado, mango, and eggplant peels along with fava bean pods are hand cut and heat pressed into a quilted collage of juxtaposed skins. An array of different colors and textures are arranged to recreate local traditional tile patterns that are also in a crisis of their own, because these tiles and their craftsmen are slowly disappearing from our local industrial sector. The peels were collected from a local bistro along with kitchen scraps. The potential for this project is vast, and more local food and juice businesses can take part in sorting their food waste to have their organic trash recycled into hand-made design pieces.



Given the environmental crisis that Lebanon is currently facing and the fact that natural and renewable resources are the backbone of a healthier planet, Revive presents a new solid wood material created from waste from wood factories. The challenge was to create a solid entity out of these fully detached particles, while also not depending on white glue as a main ingredient. Displayed here to highlight its potential, Revive was completely formed from bio materials and can be used in place of traditional wood in a variety of ways.


Fruit Leather is an innovative material made from a mix of wasted fruits and vegetables. Because this 100% organic material is flexible, translucent, and has a smooth finish, it can be applied to a variety of productions, including tea lights and jewelry boxes, which are featured here.


Polymorph is a line of fashionable clutches made from recycled styrofoam. We all know that styrofoam is bad for the environment, and it should, therefore, be an exciting candidate for all sorts of recycling, upcycling, and new-material projects. But this non-biodegradable material is nearly impossible to use in this capacity because it cannot be treated once stained with organic produce. Extensive research and experimentation revealed citrus essential oils as a safe organic solvent for styrofoam. When combined with styrofoam, citrus essential oils yield an entirely new material with added values like pliability, impermeability, and an interesting citrus scent. These qualities make it the perfect material for the fashion-forward clutches you see here.


Morning Ritual is a series of biodegradable containers made of coffee grounds and newspaper waste. Inspired by the designer’s childhood memories watching her father sip on Arabic coffee while reading the newspaper, Morning Ritual draws our attention to the fact that we often generate waste before our day even begins.


BY RIWA FARHAT Leaf is a series of tables set at three with different heights and made out of paper pulp, wood dust, and white glue. These sturdy, resilient tables are lightweight and eco-friendly, since they are mostly made of recycled paper and wood. With smooth legs that contrast the rough and bumpy top, these tables return us to nature with their aesthetics and materials. Handmade and crafted to perfection, these tables can be customized in height and color to suit your needs.


Lambaluffa, made entirely from recyclable materials, replicates an explorer’s torch that can be carried easily from one room to another and set against a wall without the need of any additional support. Although luffa, which is actually a vegetable, is usually associated with shower accessories, in this product it finds new purpose thanks to its special shape and texture. Lambaluffa creates a cozy vibe anywhere it is “planted” since the light it emits is very dim and, therefore, not only enlightens a room but also embraces nature in every aspect possible.

PHOTOGRAPHY CREDITS Richard John Vrouyr Joubanian Patrick Mouzawak TEXT AND TEXT EDITING Blake Atwood