Credit: Erco Lai

Neo Stone Age

Erco Lai


The concrete industry is at the root of several environmental issues; high CO2 emissions in several parts of the production chain, pollution related to mining, and biodiversity loss in a world more and more covered by concrete. We are in urgent need of alternatives to build in more harmony with our surroundings. What can designers learn from the geological processes of mineral formation? Can we develop new building methods using geopolymerization in the near future, to build in symbiosis with planet Earth?

The design-research project Neo Stone Age questions if we can use industrial by-products, like lime pellets from the water softening process and slags from power plants, as building materials. We investigated how to combine “mineral waste products” with the method of geopolymerization, a chemical process to bind minerals with minerals. With this method, we aim to pave the path to “artificial” stone, by making use of industrial waste, and to create (more) circular building materials. With this project, we hope to contribute to both the imagination and realization of alternative building materials, using “unwanted minerals” to close biogeochemical material flows within our built environment and the urban ecosystem.


Advisor: Esmee Geerken


Erco Lai (TW) Graduated in 2021 from Master Industrial design, Royal Academy of Art The Hague (KABK). During the program, I devoted myself to geological processes and matters. From this non-human perspective, I attempt to develop a human-Earth hybrid building system and imagine what future sustainable manufacturing can look like. Meanwhile, my design approach is listening to a matter by hand-on experiments and shaping it in the most “natural” way. Within my practices, I attempt to create the beauty of balancing between control of design and spontaneity of materials.