Irena Übler
PRIMA is a research and experimental design project with a focus on the exploration and transformation of material waste into new desirable objects.

Irena Uebler
Porto, Portugal
Irena Übler is a product designer and material researcher - Creating unique design solution and raising awareness of sustainable materials.
Field of work
Design, Ecology, Curating, Research
Project category
Material tracking and reuse
Project submitted

Irena Übler trained as a product designer and researcher on sustainable methods for the creation of products and retains an innovative design practice - is a specialist in design and the circular economy. 

Since graduating in 2010 from the University of Applied Science FH Joanneum in Graz, Austria, with a degree of Industrial Design she worked as a freelance designer for various design studios as well as carrying on with her own work [].

Irena founded the label COMO - modular cork furniture [] and is part of the team of Precious Plastic Portugal working as designer and educational trainer - doing workshops worldwide on plastic recycling.

Irena has been working in Porto for over a decade. This relationship began during the European Capital of Culture in Guimaraes, Portugal, 2012, where Irena developed the project "Descobrir Guimarães"within the framework of an academic research project that explored creative tourism from an Industrial Design perspective.

Recently, Irena and her team from Precious Plastic Portugal won the New European Bauhaus Price 2022 in the Category for “Shaping a circular industrial ecosystem and supporting life-cycle thinking” with the project REPLAY - creating a recycling system of kids toys []

Her recent project is PRIMA - an experimental laboratory focusing on transforming "waste" materials into product design - began as part of the application for the European Capital of Culture Aveiro 2027 and was exhibited during Milan Design Week 2023.

The exhibition MUD MATTERS derives from PRIMA’s early ceramic explorations, was integrated in the Satellite Activities of Porto Design Biennale 2023 programme with the theme “Being Water”.
MUD MATTERS investigates materials and waste generated during ceramic production and their reuse and transformation potential in the creation of ceramic clays. (

PRIMA combines industry, design and science in a sustainable way, relying upon natural raw materials and manmade waste in order to rethink our material requirements. Rethinking the way we use and reuse materials in an environmental friendly way is the main focus of this project. Reshaping our material waste requires re-imagination, investigation and creativity.

The project was developed in 2022 and started within the framework of the bid book for the European Capital of Culture Aveiro 2027. Material samples made of local residues - incorporating ceramics, cork, paper and plastic waste around the district of Aveiro.
Until now around 150 different material samples have been tested, mainly with residues of plastic, paper, cork and residues from the ceramic industry.

PRIMA fosters a culture of making, and revalues waste streams and engages communities to be part of the design process, tests local material transformation and documents processes in order to be shared on an online library.

The uniqueness of the PRIMA project lies in its holistic approach to sustainability and community engagement. By combining design, science, and local knowledge, PRIMA reimagines waste materials as valuable resources, fostering a culture of creativity and innovation. Its focus on exploring local resources, involving communities through participatory sessions, and addressing public space behaviors sets it apart.

Additionally, PRIMA's emphasis on creating a material library and sharing knowledge online ensures its impact extends beyond physical boundaries, empowering others to embrace sustainable design practices. Notably, all material research is site-specific, with tests and outcomes tailored to the local environment and unique residues found in the area, resulting in truly distinctive and special objects derived from the region's resources.


Irena Uebler
Irena Uebler
Irena Übler trained as a product designer and researcher on sustainable methods for the creation of products and retains an innovative design practice - is …

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