Minimal Paper

Related Staff : Christian Lange, Olivier Ottevaere

Student: Wu King Tim

Thesis Abstract

The thesis is dedicated to the material on which this text is printed on – paper. Paper is associated with fragility and rigidity at the same time. Its dual properties contribute to its humanistic touch. Though uncommon, use of paper as a literal material in architecture is not novel. From the Japanese shoji which exhibits planarity and translucency of paper, to the innovative use of rolled or folded derivatives of paper (honeycomb, origami structures, Shigeru Ban’s paper tube systems), paper remains in its pre-defined form. The thesis goes one step backward to the paper pulp and embraces the versatility of its geometric potential. The technique of Molded Pulp Packaging is taken as a key reference for opening up more formal possibilities and bringing breakthroughs to the application of paper in architecture. Specifically, the thesis introduces the making of paper with minimal properties in various aspects through iterative designs of wood-and-fabric-based paper-making formwork and techniques.

Minimal materials / The comparatively isotropic properties of paper pulp and the self-bonding properties of cellulose fibers upon drying allows the fabrication of physical minimal surfaces which locally minimize the surface area bound by a given network of boundary curves. Papers in the form of minimal surfaces obtain rigidity through their anticlastic profiles. Undulation and corrugation of the edges and stress lines give further reinforcement. The geometric manipulation in both the global and local geometry gives strength and intactness to the fragile paper. Spatially, it offers thinness and doubly-curved surfaces.

Minimal connections / The monolithic and self-connecting properties of paper pulp allow minimal connections among numerous pre-fabricated paper modules. The artefacts can come seamless and jointless.

Minimal waste / The recyclable nature of paper and the abundance of wastepaper around us makes this material perfect for fabricating temporary space without creating much waste. Paper components can be easily reduced to pulp again and serve another architectural life. Formworks produced are also reusable. As a side note, all the pulp used in the thesis originates from locally-collected wastepaper.

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