industrial design masters student erco lai conducts research to reintroduce ‘limescale’– a matter that is produced in water softening processes yet is often overlooked and discarded– as a promising material to build and live with. erco researches how to reconfigure limescale and focus on creating ‘geopolymers’, a chemical process that binds inorganic materials together. the designer also speculates what a ‘neo stone age’ would look like, and how this harvesting and production method could be integrated into the city, and change both our interiors and exteriors.
all images courtesy of erco lai
mineral pellets, from the water softening process
by definition, limescale is a hard chalky deposit, consisting mainly of calcium carbonate that often builds up inside kettles, hot water boilers, and pipework, especially that for hot water and is unwanted. erco lai explores the possibilities of making it as a building material. however, it is difficult to collect a massive quantity of limescale in a short time. thus, the designer traced back to water purification centers and discover the by-product, mineral pellets, from the water softening process.
sample of limescale + water glass
from the material level, the research provides an example of how minerals can be applied to design. learning for mineral formation is a starting point for harvesting from geo-processes and gives the industrial design a new ‘client’. the designer believes that outsourcing to nature is a bit idealistic, but duplicating nature is resourceful, in the research, has shown the potentials of mimicking the geo-process.
from observation to geomorphology and material experiments, eco began intuitively to experiment on the materials around, from limescale to seashells. the designer answers ‘what can the neo-stone age bring for today?’ it can be regarded as an instruction for the plausible future of minerals, precisely calcium. furthermore, the neo-stone age represents an era that human-system follows the geo-processes. on the other hand, it shows a fundamental perspective to reconsider the timescape from the material level. eco believes that the human system has never invented any things but recurred in the geo-process and that the neo-stone age attempts to shift from a human-centered view to an earth-centered perspective.
sample of seashells + water glass
tufa, mimicking the landforms
stalagmite, mimicking the landforms
sholar stone, mimicking the landforms
interior in neo stone age
exterior in neo stone age
name: neo stone age – domesticating limestone
designer: erco lai
edited by: yasmina karam | designboom