For all the effort, skill and time it takes to produce a typical work of origami, the result can be ephemeral, limited by the delicate nature of paper. But apply the same techniques and visuals to architecture, and suddenly the intriguing geometric and mathematical qualities of this ancient Japanese art take on a sense of awe-inspiring scale and permanence. Here are 14 faceted structures, from flat pack emergency shelters to multi-story museums.
Bilbao Health Department
The folded facade of this Health Department building in Bilbao, Spain is not only a striking architectural feature, but a creative solution to a building code that requires setbacks for multi-story buildings along major streets. The origami-inspired glass is a second skin that increases energy efficiency.
Instant Flat-Pack Origami Shelter
A series of sheets unfold from a small, compact package into a three-dimensional shelter. The design, by Doowon Suh, is envisioned as a modular emergency shelter that could easily be transported and set up in the aftermath of a disaster.
Origami Office Building, Paris
Looking like a cross between the Japanese art of origami and Art Nouveau, Manuelle Gautrand’s Origami Office Building in Paris features a double-layered curtain wall of glazing and faceted marble. The folded marble panels add an extra dimension to the building’s exterior, creating textural patterns that look fresh and modern yet blend with the adjacent historic architecture.
Bengt Sjostrom Starlight Theater, Rockford, Illinois
Folding roof panels that open up to the sky give the Bengt Sjostrom Starlight Theater at Rock Valley College in Illinois an origami feel. The transforming roof closes in poor weather conditions to ensure that the show can always go on, but maintains the feel of the outdoor theater that was formerly on the site.
Origami Disaster Cave
With a design based on a water molecule, the Digital Origami Emergency Shelter by LAVA offers temporary shelter after a disaster while “giving an opportunity for personal expression.” The wooden units can either be shipped flat-pack or cut using local plywood. Each can sleep two adults and one child, and is fitted with battery or solar-powered LED lights.