As curator of the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, Jan Boelen spread his net far and wide, inviting learning-based proposals from architects, scientists, engineers, chefs, craftspeople and activists, in addition to designers. The eclectic, thought-provoking results of his open call are on display at a series of “schools,” hosted by some of Istanbul’s top cultural institutions, until 4 November. Here are just a few highlights.

Map Section (Kerim Bayer, 2018) at Akbank Sanat (‘Unmaking School’)

Using a custom piece of software to randomly select and crop images, researcher Kerim Bayer turned his collection of 1,300 maps into a beautiful sample book of shapes, lines, and colors — a visual encyclopedia of how cartographers have represented geography.

The School of Earthquake Diplomacy (Navine G. Khan-Dossos, 2018) at Arter (‘Earth School’)

Evoking the shockwaves of a seismic tremor moving out from its epicenter, two large-scale paintings were co-produced by participants in workshops in Athens and Istanbul based on their memories of the traumatic earthquakes endured by Turkey and Greece in 1999.

Blooming Algae (Atelier LUMA Algae Lab, 2018) at Arter

Prototypes of geometric tiles, a shisha pipe, slippers and a communal drinking container hearken back to Ottoman-era designs, but are made with a very modern process: 3-D printing, using microalgae as an ecofriendly, renewable substitute for plastic.

Acting Things VII – School of Fluid Measures (Judith Seng, 2018) at Pera Museum (‘Scales School’)

An interactive installation of piles of colored sand invites participants to reconsider how values, and even numbers and objects, are designated by creating new patterns and hues in collaboration with a partner.

M.O.T.S. (Juliette Pépin, 2016–17) at Pera Museum

Designer and researcher Juliette Pépin worked with academics, psychologists and teachers to develop creative educational tools — stamps, memory games, stencils and flash cards — that encourage learning of multiple foreign scripts and languages, including Arabic, Korean, Punjabi and Turkish.

Google Weaving Stop-Time (Emelie Röndahl and collaborators, 2018) at SALT Galata (‘Time School’)

What do you get when you ask 20 artisans from around the world to Google “textile, Turkey, labour” and quickly pick one image search result to hand-weave? The results show a diversity of styles while questioning how information is spread and consumed globally.

No More Sleep No More (Danilo Correale, 2014–15) at SALT Galata

A darkened room, a pillow-covered platform and a four-hour video on the theme of sleep invite visitors to take a nap and tap into the creativity of their resting minds.

Fugu School (Åbäke, 2018) at Yapi Kredi Kültür Sanat (‘Currents School’)

The poisonous fugu fish, a Japanese delicacy, followed the warming currents through the Suez Canal to reach the Mediterranean Sea. Now the graphic-design collective Åbäke proposes following the fish as the basis for a year-long interdisciplinary course of study.

Infrequently Asked Questions (Ebru Kurbak, 2015–16) at Yapi Kredi Kültür Sanat

Turning the tables on perceptions of migrants, artist and designer Ebru Kurbak asked Somali, Afghan and Turkish women in Austria what skills an European migrant would need to learn to cope in their home countries — then illustrated the answers in an array of museum-like display cases.

Stitching Worlds (Ebru Kurbak, Irene Posch, So Kanno, Hannah Perner-Wilson, Mika Satomi, 2014–18) at Yapi Kredi Kültür Sanat

Traditionally feminine skills of knitting, weaving, crochet and embroidery are used to reimagine the male-dominated electronics industry through textile-based circuits that actually perform basic computations.