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The future of architecture and design on paper

Studies and projects dedicated to innovation and sustainability

Paper and architecture are a combination that has existed for a long time, which in many cultures has created spaces to live and inhabit. The use of paper in architecture raises questions that are still unanswered, it forces us to wonder about the meaning of architecture, about the possibility of structuring the environment around man through paper.

Can a building be considered eternal? Or should it be designed to be ephemeral, recyclable? What are the characteristics that this ancient and very modern medium offers to architectural technology? Is paper as a constitutive medium of architectural works, a wonderful utopia or a future within reach?

On the occasion of the XI edition of Lucca Biennale Cartasia in 2022 (LuBiCa) a Call for Papers was opened addressed to architects, designers, researchers and students. Dr. Giulia Bertolucci, curator of the Architecture and Design section of LuBiCa, and the director of the Biennale Federica Moretti took care of the editorial content of the selected articles thus giving life to “The Future of Architecture and Design on Paper – Studies and projects in the name of innovation and sustainability”. This is the first volume published by the Lucca Biennale Cartasia in the series that aims to tell the movement of Paper Art and Paper Architecture, thanks to the contribution granted by the “General Directorate for Education, Research and Cultural Institutes”.

It is a collection of study-articles on sustainability, innovation and material research created thanks to the collaboration with experts, researchers and students whose intent is to bring a contemporary picture of the state of the art of the use, research and study of paper material and its cellulose-based derivatives in the architecture and design sector.

Below is an excerpt of the the introduction by Giulia Bertolucci, co-curator of the publication and president of the National Institute of Bioarchitecture INBAR Section of Lucca.

Questa immagine ha l'attributo alt vuoto; il nome del file è Il-futuro-dellarchitettura-e-design-in-carta-3-1024x625.jpeg

Why should we use cardboard to build?

A first theme is certainly sustainability and low environmental impact. Cardboard comes from material recycling processes and it is, in its turn, recyclable. In this sense it is a material that can reduce the overall environmental impact of buildings for the benefit of resource protection, sustainable management of construction processes and improved energy performance of buildings. Serial paper products such as corrugated board, in panels or plates, tubes and L and U shapes are suitable for use in design and architecture, making everyday objects, furnishings and even partition walls. What can we say about the facilities? Buildings do not remain unchanged for centuries, by now a property is implemented, modified, maintained every 20 years and therefore having a building in which, in the event of an intervention, there is no production of debris which increases the amount of waste in the landfill, can be interesting. In contemporary design, therefore, the concept of an appropriate duration replaces the ambition of an infinite duration of materials.

A second issue, however linked to the previous one, is the CO2 emissions of a building, which are measured in the use phase, estimated over a period of 50 years. But the goals for reducing climate-changing emissions are to be achieved by 2030 and 2050, therefore our time horizon is drastically reduced and in this perspective the carbon incorporated in materials takes on considerable weight. Hence all materials of natural/vegetable origin and which can be recycled, or in any case reintroduced into the production cycle at the end of their useful life, are to be preferred. Among these there is also cardboard.

Finally, a third theme is the speed of realization and lightness. In fact, cardboard can be the material with which “light housing” is built, easy to transport, disassembled, reusable and finally recyclable at the end of its life cycle. There are various examples made using paper/cardboard also with a structural function, these are proof that it is a material suitable for use in both short and medium-long term constructions. Yet they are still considered only experiments, not followed by extensive development.

It is possible to purchase this publication directly on the Lucca Biennale Cartasia website.