Material_CARDBOARD/PAPER -- Wahlfach Modell und Gestaltung FS20


Lea Andermatt, Jasper Buchmann-Ebbert

Material Characteristics

The difference in between paper and cardboard is a fluent one. The best way to differentiate the two materials is through their thickness. The thickness of paper can go up to 225 g/m2 where cardboard is defined in the range of 150 g/m2 up to 600 g/m2.
As a comparison conventional printing paper has a thickness of 80g/m2. Paper is made out of different cellulose fibres, through watering and drying the paper again, the sheets get pressed. Due to this relation with water, paper as well as cardboard react with water and dissolve. Both of these materials are also conbustible. Since there are many different kinds of cardboards and papers, material characteristics also vary and are used for different purposes. Corrugated cardboard for example is used for better stability.

Paper / Cardboard

Alternative Names           

Specific Thicknesses       
Toilet Paper  10-35 g/m2
Newspapers  35-55 g/m2
Office Paper  80-100 g/m2
Posters, Flyers  130-170 g/m2
Folded Leaflets  170-200 g/m2
Brochure, Magazine Covers  200-250 g/m2
Business Cards  300-350 g/m2

Technique A: Cutting

The most conventional method of creating architectural models is cutting. You can do that by using analog tools like scissors, cutters or scalpels, or you use digital tools like laser cutters or cutting plotters.
With the analogous method you must take care that you have a stable underground, a cutting mat and balanced light conditions. If you use a cutter, also use a cutting ruler or similar aid. In addition, one should always try to cut away from the body to prevent injuries.
The digital method distinguishes between laser cutting and cutting plotting. The laser cutter burns the material, leaving traces. The thinner the material, the less traces are created. Cutting plotting uses a blade similar to that of a cutter, so small radii are not possible. In addition, the blade is also slanted, which means that there is always an overlap on the upper side.

stable table surface
cutting mat
balanced lighting conditions

ruler or other cutting guide

Technique B: Folding

Folding is one of the less used methods in model making to manipulate paper. Depending on the goal to be achieved, it is often the simplest method. A big advantage is that the paper gains stiffness and stability through folding. In this way, spatial structures can be created.
Origami is the art of paper folding, which is often associated with Japanese culture. The goal is to transform a flat square sheet of paper into a finished sculpture through folding and sculpting techniques. Modern origami practitioners generally discourage the use of cuts, glue, or markings on the paper.

stable table surface

flat edge, folding bone

Technique C: Papier mache / Pulp

Combining water with paper, the original process of producing paper is being inverted. The paper dissolves and through dispersing it a formable mass, namely pulp, developes, which can be used to form models and sculptures. For the mass to stick, one has to add either flour or an other adhesive like glue to the water. After the mass has dried, the form can be further processed with different tools.
Another technique working with wet paper is the paper strips method. Paper stripes, dipped in a mixture of water and glue, are applied layer by layer on an object or an existing frame.

Flour, Glue


Example: Thomas Demand

Thomas Demand builds to destroy. His models, created with meticulous care and great crafts­manship, are not meant to last for eternity, not even for the next day. They carry within them the seeds of destruction – between birth and death there are only a few photographs that Demand creates with a sure eye and under­stands as his real work of art. To achieve this, the sculptor works with paper instead of stone or similar materials, which gives him the flexibility he needs.
For Thomas Demand, paper has the advantage that everyone knows this material and can do something with it. He builds the models in 1:1.

Thomas Demand (Photographer/Artist)
Project / Year
Kontrollraum / 2011
Büro / 1995
Paper + underconstruction

Example: a21studio

Papiermache techniques have a long tradition in vietnamese craftsmanship. The way this pavillon is constructed is very similar to the way traditional masks of lion heads, in the streets of Hang Ma, Hanoi, are handcrafted. In just 13 days, the pavillon was constructed, with the help of students and the use of 800 bamboo sticks and 1200 sheets of poonah paper. This construction is a celebration of vietnamese craftsmanships, and the organic design is inspired by the cocoon of insects.
This 1:1 model makes the construction and the sherness of the poonah paper tangible. The potential of paper in architecture is stretched to the maximum and reveals the potentials of working with simple materials.

Nguyen Hoa Hiep, a21studio

Project / Year                     
The paper cocoon / 2016

Poonah Paper
Bamboo sticks

paper mache

Resources / Literature

First Pictures                     

Peter Märkli, Haus eines Bananenpflanzers, Dominica, 1991

Frank Gehry, Gehry House, Santa Monica, USA, 1982

Sidneylivingmuseums,, 02.06.20

Charles Moore, Piazza d’Italia, New Orleans, USA, 1974-1978

Zupagrafika, Novosmolenskaya Housing Complex, St. Petersburg, Russia, 2017

MAC & Cheese Architects + GFA2 + De Vylder Vinck Taillieu, The School of the Clash, Sydney, AU, 2018

Michael Velliquette, Series of sacred architecture models

Karl Wimmenauer, Evangelische Weissfrauenkirche, Frankfurt a.M., D, 1953

Thomas Demand, Badezimmer, Düsseldorf, D, 1997


wikiHow, “How to Cut Cardboard or Balsa Wood for Model Making”,, 31.05.2020

EXCEL IMPEX, Cutter Products,, 31.05.2020

Sweeney, Richard: Yokohama Ferry Terminal, 1994, Foreign Architects, Yokohama, JP.

Sweeney, Richard: 2015, London, UK.

thesprucecrafts,, 02.06.20


Demand, Thomas: Kontrollraum, 2011

Demand, Thomas: Büro, 1995

Matthew Marks Gallery, Daily #31,, 31.05.2020.

a21studio, The paper Cocoon, Saigon, Vietnam, 2016,, 02.06.20