Cardboard Architect Tobias Horrocks Builds a Cardboard Metropolis

©. Barton Taylor for Tobias Horrocks

Forget about wood construction; cardboard could be the Next Big Thing.

There is nothing worse than a dead or dying mall, with all those empty spaces. Architect Tobias Horrocks tips us off to an installation he has done in a mall in Melbourne, Australia, where they filled in an empty space, a void under the skylight that was filled in to enclose a retail tenancy below. The material they put in only supports 5kg per square metre (just over a pound per square foot), so Horrocks designed an installation made from cardboard "that celebrates the beauty of cities and the wonder of human civilisation. A toy city, an imaginary city, it is familiar yet strange. Scaled to make you feel like King Kong or Godzilla, it is urbanity as entertainment."

cardboard Metropolis behind rails

© Barton Taylor for Tobias HorrocksTreeHugger first learned of Horrocks in 2010, when TreeHugger Emeritus Warren covered his flatpack furniture made from Xanita, a sort of cardboard made from recycled waste paper and sugar cane leftovers.

behind rail a whole city

© Barton Taylor for Tobias Horrocks

His work unfolded on TreeHugger again with a clever flatpack display system made out of corrugated cardboard.

Closeup cardboard Metropolis

© Barton Taylor for Tobias Horrocks

Now he is building entire cities out of cardboard, albeit not at full scale. “Made from 248 separate cardboard pieces slotted together without glue, the fantasy city will result in no pollution and zero waste.”

entire cardboard city

© barton Taylor for Tobias Horrocks

On his website, Tobias Horrocks calls himself a “cardboard architect.” Right now a lot of wood fibre is being used for taller and taller buildings (see Tall Wood), but wood fibre as cardboard is not quite there yet, so he keeps busy lecturing “in computational design theory at the University of New South Wales, and also researches computational design and digital fabrication as part of a PhD at the University of Technology Sydney. He publishes regularly in architecture magazines and design journals.”

city under skylight

© Barton Taylor for Tobias Horrocks

But his practice, Fold Theory, specializes in “cardboard and utilising digital design and fabrication. Fold Theory aims to push the limits of cardboard engineering to realise forms and structures previously unimaginable.” So who knows, Tall Cardboard might be the Next Big Thing.

tall cardboard

© Barton Taylor for Tobias Horrocks

I looked at some of Horrock’s shapes and forms, and they reminded me of a certain famous Canadian artist in the Group of Seven; it may well be that Horrock is the Lawren Harris of cardboard. More at Fold Theory.

Lawren Harris

Lawren Harris/ MicMichael Collection/Public Domain