MA Design
Explorations & Transaltions

Interdisciplinary Seminar

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Carbon Geomancy  is our opening seminar of the Spring Term curated by new programme director Thomas Pausz . We have invited researchers and practitioners to reflect on the transformations of our relations to resources. The focus will be on projects pointing at emerging practices such as carbon fixing, a new model for regenerative industries pioneered in Iceland, as well as projects unearthing alternative resources to create new design processes and value. This series of talks hopes to bring to light the prismatic possibilities of moving beyond the politics of excessive extraction of minerals, fossil fuels and rare metals demanded by the Capitalocene. The international speakers converge from complementary disciplines: geological science, critical design, and applied material research. 
“Geomancy” refers to a spectrum of traditional practices of divination concerned with establishing causal relations between humans and the patterns found in natural elements such as minerals, sand and stones. Could we invent a contemporary form of Geomancy as a critical observation of matter in the post-industrial environment? What forms of technologies, ethics and collaborations would this new Geomancy require?

Politics of Extraction 

Carbon Fixing

Future Resources 



Public Lecture

How can we balance the global carbon cycle during the 21st century?

Keynote by Sigurður Reynir Gíslason

Sigurður is a Research Professor in geochemistry at the Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland. He holds a PhD from the Johns Hopkins University in 1985. He initiated a research group focusing on field and laboratory experiments related to mineral storage of CO2 in basaltic rocks as well as the chemical and physical erosion rates of basaltic terrains and their role in the global carbon cycle. This group has also contributed to the understanding of the environmental impact of volcanic eruptions. He is the past president of the European Association of Geochemistry until Jaunary 2021, a co-founder and one of three directors of the CarbFix consortium (, an international consortium on carbon capture and mineral storage. Sigurður is a Geochemistry Fellow and a Fellow of the International Association of Geochemistry; a recipient of the Patterson Award of the Geochemical Society and the President of Iceland invested him with the Order of the Falcon first of January 2020.

The Carbfix project is the 2020 co-recipient of the International Keeling Curve Award and The European Geothermal Energy Council´s Ruggero Bertani European Geothermal Innovation Award


Mineral Cities

Arnhildur Pálmadóttir

Studio Arnhildur pálmadóttir is a growing architecture office working at the intersection of creativity, technology and science. The founder architect Arnhildur Pálmadóttir has 20 years of extensive experience in architectural design as well as work experience from engineering firms in Iceland and Norway. At the studio the multilayered nature of each project is investigated and its context to other elements.

´From our point of view at the Earth’s surface, we only see a fraction of the materials found in the Earth or in the sky. Rock is only partially visible to us, in mountains and landscapes, often covered to large extents by vegetation. When constructing buildings or power plants, where energy and matter from the Earth are being harnessed, we usually pay little heed to the impact they have on the environment around them. Except for example, if adapting structural foundations to prevent a building from collapsing during an earthquake or a flood, or designing a cover or a veil to protect the building from the weather. What if constructions would spring from geological layers or emerge as an effect of the weather in the area where they are located? What if the buildings of the future would be made exclusively from local materials, transformed by virtue of the forces and resources in the immediate environment? What would the most natural constructions on Earth look like, without any harmful mining and unsustainable power production? 
(Extract from Mineral Cities article for Mæna Magazine)
10:00 am

In search of porcelain

Brynhildur Pálsdóttir

In search of porcelain is an exploration of the potential and obstacles in the utilisation of Icelandic minerals to make porcelain. The idea for the project was sparked by the history of porcelain, the impact of this remarkable substance on our culture, and the way it impelled constant experimentation and technical advances. That process of evolution has led to massive expansion and distribution of porcelain, which today is an integral part of our daily lives.

Experiments with clay in Iceland are very recent by comparison with most cultures, where clay has been utilised for thousands of years. When porcelain manufacture began in Denmark in the late 18th century, Iceland came close to having a part to play in the rapid industrial development taking place in Europe – but that came to nothing. In the project we examine the history of porcelain, and the place that the minerals around us play in our culture and society. We rarely give thought to the origins of the substances which we tend to take for granted in our daily lives.

 But behind those substances lies a centuries-long process of evolution – a progression in humanity’s relationship with nature, driven by the indefatigable curiosity of mankind, in the constant quest to transform previously unutilised aspects of nature. Our search for porcelain is propelled by that same curiosity and desire for transformation – as we remove substances from their natural setting and give them a new role and a new form. In Search of Porcelain was launched in 2016 by designer Brynhildur Pálsdóttir, ceramicist Ólöf Erla Bjarnadóttir and geologist Snæbjörn Guðmundsson.The search is still ongoing with experiments and object design.