Origami is a concoction of two words ‘Ori’ meaning ‘Folding’ and Gami meaning ‘Paper’ is a traditional Japanese art practiced since the early 16th Century (Wikipedia, n.d.). The dynamic folding artworks paved a way for a new aesthetic in architecture and allied fields. Integration of Origami in the design process has successfully fulfilled the quest for achieving novel forms. 

The advent of computational data and digital fabrication have greatly favored the adoption of Origami in architectural practices. Initially pioneering in its place of origin, the free form folding process of design gradually spread from Japan to Europe, the USA, and other parts of the world.

Let us look at 10 such examples.

1. Klein Bottle House 

Skirting the heavily foliaged dunes in Melbourne, the Klein Bottle House is a remarkable feat of folding forms. Corresponding to the challenging coastal terrain, the assemblage orients itself in form of a Klein Bottle. The holiday retreat features a Pearl Ash and Antique White colored facade borrowing from contrasting effects of light and shadow predominant in origami. The black walls harboring windows act as a focal point enabling one to appreciate the woodland without any distractions. 

In addition to the traditional timber stud frame, the building is enveloped by layers of metal and cement sheets. Large cavities between interior and exterior cladding provide room for a double glazing system. A central court aiding natural light and ventilation, hardwood floors topped by bamboo flooring, and efficient artificial lighting notion sustenance. Thus, the Klein Bottle House is an epitome of oblique forms, shaded silhouettes, and sustainability. (ArchDaily, 2008)

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2. Origami House

“It is more than a house or even a pavilion, it is like a boat anchored in a green sea of grass.” 

– OAB Architects

Dominating a green landscape in the city of Barcelona, the Origami House is a classic archetype of modern architecture. While approaching the residence, one encounters a pool of water showcasing reflections of the bold roof. A courtyard adjoining the waterbody leads to a wall featuring an enameled rectangular panel, which is the entrance to the residence. Though orthogonal in plan, the volumes assume dynamic origamic forms in sections. 

Arranged in multiple modules, the lean-sized staircases connect the modules resembling the ones found in boats. The building remains fairly introverted with the services concealed under the ground all the openings strategically positioned on the rear facade behaving as a lens for glimpsing vista. (Architizer, 2009)

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3. Festival Hall in Erl 

Situated in Erl, a district in the western region of Austria the Festival hall derives its unconventional form from massive rocks circumscribing the edge of the site. Designed as a Winter Concert venue, the black angular complex lies adjacent to the existing theatre complementing its soft organic form and white facade. 

The maneuver of drawing parallels between two buildings not only results in a seamless visual interaction but also generates an ensemble merging with the environment. After accessing the Festival Hall via a staircase reclining on undulating terrain, the visitor enters into a corridor, opening up glances of the existing theatre. 

The origamic projections of the outer facade intervene in the performance area on the second level. Furthermore, the fluctuating foyers, varying heights, and a western glass facade all contributing to a wide range of sensory experiences in the hall. (ArchDaily, 2012)

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4. The Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies 

Located on the campus of Nottingham University in China, The Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSET)Technologies is a cutting-edge research facility specializing in renewable energy systems like solar energy, wind energy, and photovoltaic energy. Taking cues from the traditional Chinese paper lanterns, paper fans, and wooden screens, the sculptural edifice features a multitude of folding lines converging at a single point. The flexing frontier of the building comprises a double skin facadean outer glass overlay and an inner concrete membrane. 

The lighting between the two skins highlights illusionary printed patterns evident in origami. As the name suggests, the skyscraper incorporates various sustainable elements such as a skylight supporting natural light and ventilation on all floors along with suitable heating and cooling systems for different seasons of the year. (ArchDaily, 2016)

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5. St-Loup Chapel

Constructed as an interim church for the St-Loup community in Switzerland, the St-Loup Chapel is a paradigm of origami in architecture. Positioned perpendicular to an old walnut tree in the center of the site, the chapel was fabricated by timber panels generated from computation software. Borrowing the scheme of a protestant church, the chapel exhibits a wide, low height entrance that tapers and elevates nearing the apsidal end. (Architecture Lab, 2009) 

The frontier of the chapel features a gable end by predominated transparent plastic panels. On the adjacent facades, alternative mountain and valley folds impart flamboyance to the building. The harmonious walls, pinewood cladding, and natural light imbibe calmness, openness, and a unique sense of fulfillment to the worshipper. (ArchDaily, 2008)

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6. Pantheon Nube Tomb

Overlooking the quaint streets of Murcia province in Spain, the Pantheon Nube Tomb is a model of a contemporary mausoleum. Since a pantheon is an intermediate realm between heaven and earth, the architects conceptualized the crypt as a transitional space without evident doors or locks. (ArchDaily, 2011)

As a result, the frontage of the mausoleum exhibits black granite zig-zag doors paving the way for a surreal entrance transition. Resembling the ancient crypts, the gateway of trapezoidal form can only be opened in a specific sequence. Upon entering the complex, one encounters a juxtaposition of polygonal forms inspired from the clouds. Sunlight falling on this abstract form enchants the pilgrim. (Clavel Arquitectos, 2010)

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7. Barclay’s Paris Headquarters  

Situated in the vicinity of Arc De Triomphe in Paris, France, the headquarters of Barclays Capital Bank is a six-storeyed origamic edifice. The facade of the building is dominated by cantilevered, screen-printed prismatic modules shading the openings of the lower level. The shade reflects origami paperwork with deep folds in the center which slowly flatten towards the edge of the building. 

To achieve this, the architects incorporate the use of three shades of screen printed prismsa dark prism with a prominent mountain fold inserted between two lighter prisms. Thus Barclay’s Paris Headquarters is a unique combination of origami and screen printing techniques. (ZDNet, 2012)

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8. Origami Disaster Cave 

Designed to function as a temporary shelter during calamities, the Origami Disaster Cave is a prototype of the Japanese Metabolist Movement. Mimicking the form of a water molecule, the module referenced the Metabolist capsules favored during the sixties. To enable easy availability of the unit during disasters, the plywood envelope comprises disassembled prefabricated plates that may be transported via a helicopter

Once the enclosure has been assembled the interior can be fabricated from any material at hand like wood, cardboard, or newspaper. This origamic module incorporates a sleeping space for two adults and a child along with a small eating and reading area. The specialty of the prototype is its LED lights contributing to a lantern-like appearance, a symbol of hope in adversity.

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9. Bloomberg Pavilion 

Demarcating the entrance to the Contemporary Museum of Tokyo in 2011, the Bloombergs’ Pavilion is a blueprint of origami in architecture. Envisioned as an ever-growing tree, the pavilion is a combination of a static cuboid and three-dimensional isosceles triangles expanding irregularly. The scattering creases behave as a freely extending entity whereas its base, the cuboid housing an exhibition space behaves as a place for solace. 

The pure white facade of the pavilion compliments its seemingly complex form, offering views of the museum and the sky. Developed entirely from computational strategies, the Bloomberg Pavilion is an amalgamation of mathematics and biotic endeavors. (Domus & Loitta, 2011)

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ArchDaily. (2008, 10 24). Klein Bottle house / McBride Charles Ryan. Klein Bottle house / McBride Charles Ryan. Retrieved 3 31, 2021, from https://www.archdaily.com/7952/klein-bottle-house-mcbride-charles-ryan

ArchDaily. (2008, 11 21). Temporary chapel for the Deaconesses of St-Loup – Localarchitecture / Danilo Mondada + LOCALARCHITECTURE. Temporary chapel for the Deaconesses of St-Loup – Localarchitecture / Danilo Mondada + LOCALARCHITECTURE. Retrieved 3 31, 2021, from https://www.archdaily.com/9201/temporary-chapel-for-the-deaconesses-of-st-loup-localarchitecture

ArchDaily. (2009, 7 13). Nestlé Chocolate Museum / Rojkind Arquitectos. Nestlé Chocolate Museum / Rojkind Arquitectos. Retrieved 3 31, 2021, from https://www.archdaily.com/28509/nestle-chocolate-museum-rojkind-arquitectos

ArchDaily. (2011, 7 24). Pantheon Nube / Clavel Arquitectos. Pantheon Nube / Clavel Arquitectos. Retrieved 3 31, 2021, from https://www.archdaily.com/162877/pantheon-nube-clavel-arquitectos

ArchDaily. (2011, 9 11). Origami Cave (Emergency Shelter) / LAVA. Origami Cave (Emergency Shelter) / LAVA. Retrieved 3 31, 2021, from https://www.archdaily.com/166151/origami-cave-emergency-shelter-lava

ArchDaily. (2012, 12 14). Festival Hall in Erl / Delugan Meissl Associated Architects. Festival Hall in Erl / Delugan Meissl Associated Architects. Retrieved 3 31, 2021, from https://www.archdaily.com/306296/festival-hall-in-erl-delugan-meissl-associated-architects

ArchDaily. (2016, 02 10). Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies / Mario Cucinella Architects. Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies / Mario Cucinella Architects. Retrieved 3 31, 2021, from https://www.archdaily.com/781793/centre-for-sustainable-energy-technologies-mario-cucinella-architects

Architecture Lab. (2009, 06 29). St-Loup Chapel / LOCALARCHITECTURE. St-Loup Chapel / LOCALARCHITECTURE. Retrieved 3 31, 2021, from https://www.architecturelab.net/st-loup-chapel-localarchitecture/

Architizer. (2009). Origami House. Origami House by Office of Architecture in Barcelona-Architizer. Retrieved 3 31, 2021, from https://architizer.com/projects/origami-house/

Clavel Arquitectos. (2010). Panteon-Nube. Panteon-Nube Clavel Arquitectos. Retrieved 3 31, 2021, from https://www.clavelarquitectos.com/panteon-nube

Domus & Loitta, S. J. A. (2011, 12 5). Bloomberg Pavilion Project. Bloomberg Pavilion Project – Domus. Retrieved 3 31, 2021, from https://www.domusweb.it/en/architecture/2011/12/05/bloomberg-pavilion-project.html

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Origami. Origami-Wikipedia. Retrieved 3 31, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origami

ZDNet. (2012, 1 10). Barclay’s origami inspired headquarters in Paris. Barclay’s origami inspired headquarters in Paris. Retrieved 3 31, 2021, from https://www.zdnet.com/article/barclays-origami-inspired-headquarters-in-paris/


Tanisha Bharadia is a student pursuing Bachelors in Architecture from the University of Mumbai. She has a keen interest in architecture, a consistent approach along with a willingness to learn and persevere.

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