Neo Stone Age

2021-Present

2022 START PRIZE, Ars Electronica - Nomination
2022 Guiltlessplastic by Rosanna Orlandi - Finalist
2022 Creative Industries Funds NL - starting grant
2021 MA Industrial Design Department Award - Nomination

Introduction

Make things like Earth

The concrete industry is at the root of several environmental issues. Can humans develop new manufacturing methods with industrial wastes? From Erco Lai's practice, he creates Neostones from powder of marble/limestone, lime pellets, sand and slag with the method named ‘geopolymerization’.

Chapter 1

Domesticating Limestone

Calcium carbonate is a common material widely spread on Earth; it is dissolved in rivers and lakes; we can find it in skeletons and shells; it forms "tufa" and "stalagmites"; it builds up caves and mountains and it is also in our kettles and water pipes. It has various applications in our life in agriculture, food industry, glass industry and cement production. However, the main resource of limestone nowadays is mostly from quarries, we extract from the land and create messy "tailings" in the landscape. What kind of alternatives could we find in our surroundings?

One of the forms of calcium carbonate is "limescale", a matter we produce in our water softening processes yet is often overlooked and discarded. In his research, he attempts to reintroduce limescale as a promising material to build and live with. Erco Lai researches how to reconfigure limescale and focus on creating "geopolymers", a chemical process to bind inorganic materials together. Based on the material research, Erco Lai 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. Can we become Earth dwellers in this domesticated landscape?

Limescale

Limescale

Lime pellets

Lime pellets

Geopolymer

Geopolymer

About material

Geopolymer

Geopolymerization is the process of polymerizing silica and alumina containing minerals using alkali solvents. Discovered (or rediscovered) by Joseph Davidovits in France, geopolymer cements are likely similar to materials used in antiquity. Although cements are the most common application of geopolymerization, a range of refractory and structural products have been produced. The products of geopolymerization are called poly-silicates. (Open Source Ecology)

Chapter 1.1
Observation↗

Chapter 1.2
Harvesting & making↗

Chapter 1.3
A trip to Neostone Town↗

Chapter 1.4
Speculative urban plan↗
Chapter 2

Synthesizing Neostone

The concrete industry is at the root of several environmental issues. Can humans develop new manufacturing methods using 'geopolymerization' with industrial wastes? With this project, Erco is working on both the imagination and realization of alternative building materials, using ‘unwanted minerals’ to close material flows within our urban ecosystem.

From geopolymerization, He creates 'Neostones' from powder of marble, lime pellets, sand and slag. The Neostone raises awareness from the perspective of the material, by learning from the Earth, by blurring the boundary between earth-made and human-made, by mimicking geo-processes and translates this into new manufacturing mechanisms.

Chapter 2.1
Used concrete harvesting↗

Chapter 2.2
Mineralloop↗

Limestone

Sand

Marlstone

Form follows Gaia

Neo Scholar's stone

In Asia, there is a culture of harvesting natural-formed stones from lakes or caves and bringing them into gardens. In his practice, Erco Lai uses some real stones as references and turns them into digital models first. With the plan exported digitally, he starts to make the sculpture by his own hands.

The collection is attempting to blur the boundary between natural forms and man-made forms. Moreover, it shows a possibility of reusing artificial wastes instead of stealing natural resources continuously.

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Making process

Experiments

Further reading

Mineralloop - New craft developed from Neostone
Biorock - Experiments on electrolysis