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In an oyster shell

Exploring the materiality of limestone, through the story of one tiny, humble oyster.

MA Design: Expanded Practice
Goldsmiths, University of London

Oyster shells as headphones

Project scope

In an oyster shell highlights the necessity of understanding human impact on the planet during the Anthropocene. It also illustrates the interconnectedness of seemingly unrelated materials with certain processes. It does so in a poetic way, through the design of an auditory experience that explores limestone, one of the oldest known materials, which has a beautiful story to tell; a story that reflects the history of human civilisation.


This project is a tribute to the white colour of Cycladic architecture. It is metaphorically placed in the Cyclades: a complex of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea defined by the use of limewash in their vernacular architecture. Investigating the material by looking beyond the colour white, it is revealed that limestone essentially comes from compressed oyster shells. Limescale formed in the sink or in a kettle, is also a form of limestone; we are therefore, literally drinking oyster shells. It is also revealed that different forms of slaked lime are used in all kinds of industrial products and activities, such as the purification of sugar, glass making, paper making, and toothpaste, just to name a few.

Oyster shells as headphones

Oyster shells as headphones

When we cover our ears with oyster shells we can hear the ocean. This installation replicates this motion by triggering the hearing sense. People can use shells made of limestone as headphones to listen to sounds of the material such as the eating of an oyster, blasts in a limestone quarry, quicklime reacting with water, brushing teeth, sounds of paper, and running water form a tap.

Learning more about the products and processes we are familiar with is only the first step in taking better care of the planet.

Expanded Publication

Wellcome Résumé