This week’s Material Monday focuses on cardboard, one of the most mundane materials we encounter on a daily basis, and which has a widespread reputation for being temporary and disposable. However, recent developments within design have allowed this humble material to come out of the shadows and get the recognition it deserves, becoming more commonly thought of as both durable and purposeful.
One of the first applications of cardboard was way back in the 19th century, when the Kellogg brothers used it in the packaging for their cereal boxes.
Cardboard is a heavy-duty paper, available in various strengths – from, at its most simple, a single thick sheet of paper, to more complex configurations of multiple corrugated and uncorrugated layers. It all stems from the beloved tree; first, it is turned into a wood pulp, before going through a chemical process from which we get the heavy-duty paper. Corrugated cardboard is essentially a paperboard comprising a layer of crimped paperboard glued to a flat piece of paperboard, which can be folded, bound and printed.
The Wikkelhouse is a great recent example of how cardboard can be more durable. Developed by Amsterdam-based studio and artist collective Fiction Factory, the Wikkelhouse is a modular living space, made entirely from cardboard, which can last a total of 100 years. By binding 24 layers of high-quality paperboard around a house-shaped mould using an ‘eco-friendly’ superglue, the robust, insulating shell proves three times more sustainable than traditional construction methods.
Cardboard and heavy-duty papers are continuously being developed for more innovative applications across a multitude of industries. Lexus, the Japanese car manufacturer and a champion of new materials and processes, has made a fully functioning car entirely out of cardboard. Other design feats have seen cardboard translated into pieces of furniture, lighting, flat-pack vases and even a fully functioning bicycle that costs only £10 to manufacture.
The next time you come face-to-face with a piece of cardboard, consider how this inexpensive yet sustainable material can be valued in more ways than as a simple juice carton, or those ever-practical moving boxes.