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Origami Architecture - Concepts and Strategies

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Origami Architecture - Examples and Design Strategies

What is Origami Architecture?

Origami, derived from "ori", meaning folding, and "gami", meaning paper, is a traditional Japanese art of paper folding, a concept that has spread across continents over time, shaping its evolution, practice, techniques, and use. Widely known as an art form, in modern times it is found in various professional fields such as modern sciences, fashion, as well as architecture.

The abstract, geometrical qualities that define origami have a permanent impression and a grand scale in the world of architecture, as opposed to the scale of an origami sheet. 

Origami Architecture
Origami Architecture

Closely associated with the word "transformable,"  just as origami as an art transforms a mere piece of paper into a delicate yet sturdy sculpture, origami architecture provides the basis for spatial transformation. With the decline in urban spaces, there is a need for constant transformation and multi-use spaces. Origami architecture is based on two major factors. Static origami architecture and dynamic origami architecture. In static buildings, it is often used as a structural strength with no motion once folded, while in dynamic buildings, it allows for responsive skin. 

Origami Architecture
Origami Architecture


  1. Since the paper folding technique is sturdy and self-supported by itself, the structure does not need complex structural designs.
  2. As forms are constructed out of folded paper, the form's structural stability as well as its practicality is understood.
  3. It is also easier to visualize and explain using models, instead of sketches or orthographic drawings.
  4. It is one skill that people of all ages are familiar with. Be it the established architects or the students, they have made use of this technique in form.
  5. Only a piece of paper, a little time, and a spark of creativity within is required.


  1. Although folded forms are structurally sound, they are less frequently used for habitat-related purposes. 
  2. The use of the structure defines its material. Whether the structure is to be light and movable, or static and making a statement.
  3. When it comes to origami architecture, the choice of material is crucial because it directly affects the user's initial visual impression.

Bilbao Health Department, Spain:

  1. As a result of strict city rules, several restrictions were imposed like during the construction of the structure
  2. Due to being a street corner in the building, one of its corners was chamfered, which reduced the size of the rooms on that particular corner and necessitated the construction of an additional tower on top to make up for the lost space.
  3. Despite these challenges, a unique solution was implemented.
  4. To improve the energy efficiency of the building a second skin was designed taking inspiration from the art of origami.
  5. This glass prism as the facade is not only an eye-catching spectacle to look at, It also promotes undisturbed airflow through the structure, avoiding the use of air conditioning systems.
  6. Because of the building's limited use of artificial air conditioning, energy consumption is reduced, resulting in less noise.
Origami Facade in Bilbao Health Department, Spain
Origami Facade in Bilbao Health Department, Spain
Corridor Video in Bilbao Health Department, Spain
Corridor Video in Bilbao Health Department, Spain

Exterior Folded Facade
Facade Tubular Structure
Inner Facade

"I Will Be With You, Whatever" Installation, Munich

  1. Designed by British artists of Studio Morison, an installation was engineered and put up around the statue of Maximilian-I in the center of Munich. 
  2. This temporary installation was erected to raise awareness for the homeless and destitute of the city. 
  3. It is a simple geometry that forms a complex pattern by folding the sides and creating an origami-like form that wraps around the statue, inviting users to explore and experience the imposing installation.
  4. It's not just a play on the form of the pavilion, even the material used plays an important role. It gives an impression of a sturdy, blocky mass, from a distance. 
  5. Although on advancing towards it, the intelligently used material is seen due to which the statue can either be seen or completely hidden depending on the light levels throughout the day.
  6. The illumination of the installation at night allows for distant visibility of the pavilion and acts as gravity, pulling users into the public sphere.
I Will Be With You, Whatever Installation in Munich
I Will Be With You, Whatever Installation in Munich
I Will Be With You, Whatever Installation in Munich
I Will Be With You, Whatever Installation in Munich

As folded structures are grow from the concept of origami, their techniques can be used in ideas of temporary architecture that require makeshift spaces such as shelter homes, pods, and kinetic systems that may require "assembly and disassembly." This opens up a wide range of possibilities in the field of architecture and construction, ranging from emergency shelters, pavilions, temporary resting spaces, travel equipment, etc.

Instant Flat Pack Origami Shelter by Doowan Suh

  1. Besides the concept of flexibility and mobility, striping a structure down to its minimalist idea of transformable architecture, all that is left of a folding form is a sheet-like structure. 
  2. With the idea of assembly and disassembly, the origami shelter folds and unfolds into the most basic building.
  3. The transformability of this structure allows for the transportation and compressibility that allows in reducing the size where makeshift spaces are necessary. 
  4. The requirement for no more than one individual to use and put the pod back together is a splendid example of how simple and logical the design is. 
  5. As a modular design, these flat packs can be used as a single unit or joined with more units to create a larger space.
  6. Modifications can be done in the form of replications and stacking to create multifunctional, versatile spaces.
Instant Flat Pack Origami Shelter by Doowan Suh
Instant Flat Pack Origami Shelter by Doowan Suh
Instant Flat Pack Origami Shelter by Doowan Suh
Instant Flat Pack Origami Shelter by Doowan Suh

Origami as a source of inspiration has extensive research going on even today. It has become easier with the study of technology, computation, and modern-day sciences. Although it goes to prove that no matter the advances made in today’s world, the simplest of solutions emerge from the ideas deep-rooted in the past. They only evolve through time to match the present-day context.

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