Paper bags and cardboard boxes, butchers’ paper and newsprint hats. Paper plates, papier mache and the versatile matchbox, boxes for packing and moving and play Visionaries like Gehry and Shigeru Ban use it for structure but, whether the blame rests with neat stacking Lego and Lincoln Logs or span-worthy Meccano, most of us don’t consider cardboard as a construction basic.
With around 85% recycled content typically found in corrugated card, the material offers sustainable credentials that many other product and building materials cannot match. Frank Gehry’s seminal 1969 Wiggle chair, featuring 60 layers of corrugated card “Edge Board” screwed into compression, is a plain sexy investigation of how to achieve strength and sculpture through the opposite layering of corrugations. Shigeru Ban’s equally groundbreaking use of cardboard structure in halls, office buildings and houses epitomizes economy in use and lifecycle, marrying the strength of the helically wound paper tube with simple, repeatable, affordable connection details. As the architect says, “I don’t like waste”.
Online a smattering of origami-based modules demonstrates all manner of flat packing structure. Bloxes, flat packed card blocks that interlock for DIY internal walls and structures. Swiss architect Nicola Enrico Staubli and his free, downloadable Foldschool designs. Eschewing the asymmetrical fold for the uniform concertina, the patented Liquid Cardboard creations of US-based Cardboard Designs are poetic and “freely transforming” vessels.
More pedestrian in form but super useful, compressed paper panel materials like Paperstone and EcoTop provide a paper-based replacement for pulp boards like MDF, utilizing the density and strength of papers en mass.
The ultimate in DIY cardboard emersion and superior acoustics has to be Mafoombey, a corrugated space both poetic and functional, designed for listening to music as part of the Finnish Habitare Fair 2005 by students Martti Kalliala and Esa Ruskeepää. In awarding Mafoombey first prize Jasper Morrison commended the design for simply “turning the humble material of cardboard into something so wonderful”.