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The future of paper architecture and design

Studies and projects in the name of 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 poses questions that are still unanswered, forcing us to question ourselves about the meaning of architecture, about the possibility of structuring the environment around man through paper.

Can a building be considered eternal? Or must it be designed to be ephemeral, recyclable ? What are the characteristics that this ancient and very modern media 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 care 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 " the first volume published by Lucca Biennale Cartasia of a series that wants to tell the story of the Paper Art and Paper Architecture movement, thanks to the contribution granted by the "General Directorate of 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 photograph the state of the art of the use, research and study of the material paper and its cellulose-based derivatives in the architecture and design sector.

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

Why should we use cardboard to build?

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

A second theme, also linked to the previous one, is that of a building's CO2 emissions, which are measured over the use phase, estimated over a period of 50 years. But the objectives of reducing climate-altering emissions are to be achieved by 2030 and 2050, so our time horizon is drastically reduced, from this perspective the carbon incorporated in materials takes on considerable weight. Therefore, 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 speed of creation and lightness. In fact, cardboard can be the material with which "lightweight housing" is built, which is easy to transport, removable, reusable and finally recyclable at the end of its life cycle. There are various examples created using paper/cardboard which also has 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 just experiments, which have not been followed by extensive development.

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

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