Smart Replicas project: Design Column #4 The Circle Is Round

Design Column #4 The Circle Is Round features four stories that provide a counterweight to the current tendency towards withdrawal and defence. In different ways the projects show that thinking in terms of boundaries and linear developments is by no means always relevant. When doors appear to close, opportunities arise elsewhere. The ‘plastic soup’ in the ocean is not bound by national borders. Newer and bigger is not always better. Growth is cyclical; the circle is round.

In collaboration with Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Delft University of Technology, the AR Lab and the Royal Academy of Art, Maaike Roozenburg made Smart Replicas of 17th-century teacups from the museum’s collection. The original pieces were scanned in a CT scanner, and by reverse engineering the scans, 3D prints were made to produce porcelain cast moulds. A ‘smart tag’ containing information about the object was then linked to the new cups.

This combination of innovative techniques brings objects from the past back to life. An object that has lost its original function (and can only be viewed as part of a museum collection) is revived outside the museum’s walls. Modern technology makes the replicas ‘smarter’ than their pre-industrial predecessors – and they can be put to use again.

The project takes up its place in a long tradition of copying, reproducing and sharing between the East and the West. Porcelain from China was imported on a huge scale in the 16th and 17th centuries, but it was not until the 18th century that a European geologist and an alchemist managed to ‘crack’ the recipe for porcelain so that Europe could make its own. Smart Replicas has also been made possible by the EKWC and Mareco Prototyping.