DesignTalks talks - What now? Episode 2: Let’s talk about material

December 18th, 2023
Designer Ingvar Helgason on stage at DesignTalks 2023.

Humanity is facing the eleventh hour and the call for more sustainable solutions has never been louder. DesignTalks addresses the challenges the world is facing and highlights the importance of design and architecture in societal and global change. Creative thinking in the present is a key solution to the problems of the future. 

In this second episode of DesignTalks talks podcast series called What now? the topic of material in today’s design world is highlighted and we get to know designers who are innovating new materials, and get curious about the process behind designing and producing such matters from scratch. 

Designers and architects all over the world are exploring and inventing new materials that have a more sustainable and ecological effect on our planet. We speculate over their role in a more sustainable and earth-friendly world and ask: How do materials impact our everyday life? Do we need to transform obsolete systems? Explore alternative ecologies? How can you inspire courage, hope and radical rallying with Mother Nature?

In this episode the host Anna Gyða Sigurgísladóttir, sits down with architect Jan Dobrowolski from Lúdika architects and designer Valdís Steinarsdóttir and founder & chief Executive of Vitrolabs Ingvar Helgason and we hear from Paola Antonelli, founder of Design Emergency and Senior Curator of Architecture & Design at the Museum of Modern Art who spoke at the DesignTalks conference. 

DesignTalks talks is a podcast based on the annual international conference DesignTalks in Reykjavík. The What now? series is inspired by the conference 2023 and supported by Nordic Talks. Hlín Helga Guðlaugsdóttir, designer is the curator of DesignTalks.


Jan Dobrowolski, architect

Born in Warsaw, Jan grew up in Cairo, studied in Glasgow and qualified as an architect in London, where he lived and worked for over a decade. He has extensive experience in projects across the UK, Iceland and the Middle East. He has designed and delivered complex turn-key projects, with his work published in the UK architectural press. He runs multi-disciplinary courses in architecture and building construction in Reykjavík.

Valdís Steinarsdóttir, product designer.

Valdís focuses on material research and on finding ecological solutions to today’s problems. Through her projects, she strives to create a discussion and make people rethink current norms, and bring about positive social change through her design. Valdís’ designs have been recognized with numerous awards, including the Formex Nova-Nordic Designer of the Year Award.

Ingvar Helgason, Co-Founder and CEO of VitroLabs - a venture-backed company that combines breakthroughs in stem cell research, biomaterials, and 3D tissue engineering to create cruelty-free leather from animal cells.

Originally from Reykjavik, Iceland, Ingvar's fashion industry expertise began in 2006, when he co-founded the fashion brand, Ostwald Helgason, which ultimately scaled to distribution in 23 countries worldwide. Being drawn to the technology side of the fashion industry, he went on to co-found WOAH, a cloud ERP platform for apparel companies, helping 500+ brands and manufacturers speed up processes, reduce waste, and improve profitability. WOAH was sold in 2018. Ingvar’s commitment to sustainability and belief that biotech companies have the opportunity to lead the way in changing how companies produce materials and build supply chains is the foundation upon which VitroLabs’ mission stemmed. In May 2022, VitroLabs secured a Series A funding round of $46 million, backed by prominent investors including Kering, Leonardo DiCaprio, Khosla Ventures, and Agronomics. The company also forged a partnership with luxury conglomerate, the Kering Group. These developments have earned VitroLabs widespread recognition in top-tier press outlets like Vogue Business, Vogue Italia, BBC, The Business of Fashion, Bloomberg News, and Forbes.

Paola Antonelli, founder of Design Emergency and Senior Curator of Architecture & Design at the Museum of Modern Art. 

Paola Antonelli is one of the world’s most respected curators of Architecture and Design. She’s a senior Curator of Architecture & Design at The Museum of Modern Art, as well as MoMA’s founding Director of Research & Development. The Instagram platform and book Design Emergency (@design.emergency), which she co-founded with design critic Alice Rawsthorn in 2020, is an ongoing investigation on design's power to envision a better future for all. Her work investigates design’s impact on everyday experience, often including overlooked objects and practices, and combining design, architecture, art, science, and technology. Her exhibitions, lectures, and writings contemplate design’s intersection and interaction with other fields (from technology and biology to popular culture) and with life—that of individuals, communities, all species, and all planets. Her goal is to promote people’s understanding of design, until its positive influence on the world is universally acknowledged. Among her most recent work are the curation of XXII Triennale di Milano, Broken Nature, and MoMA’s Material Ecology––on the work of architect Neri Oxman––and Never Alone, on video games and interactive design.


Anna Gyða Sigurgísladóttir, Icelandic, Radio host and producer from Reykjavík.

After graduating from law in 2015, with a final essay in the field of jurisprudence about the rights of witches in 17th century Iceland, Anna Gyða co-created Lestin - a daily cultural program on Radio 1, National Broadcasting Service of Iceland (RÚV). She has since been hosting, producing and editing various podcasts and documentary series for radio and TV as well as shooting documentaries of her own and writing non-fiction essays. Most recently she edited and produced the podcast Björk: Sonic Symbolism (Mailchimp and Talkhouse production)

December 18th, 2023
Álfrún Pálsdóttir


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