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What are Cardboard Chairs?

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  • Written By: S. Mithra
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2016
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Frank Gehry designed and invented cardboard chairs in the 70s and 80s. Layers of corrugated cardboard, reinforced by laminating, created an inventive, environmentally conscious, lowbrow alternative to designer furniture that appealed both to architectural artists and middle-class families. In more recent decades, architectural design schools have assigned as projects the creation of chairs capable of supporting an adult out of nothing more than a cardboard box and a utility knife. This tests students' sense of aesthetics, construction, and engineering, with an affordable and flexible material.

The famous architect, Frank Gehry, wanted to use an unconventional material to build innovative chairs to disrupt the highbrow design community's expectations of furniture. His first series, made in 1969-72, was entitled "Easy Edges." He utilized corrugated cardboard's intrinsic strength, pliability, and visual appeal to make simple chairs that ordinary people could use in their dining room, kitchen, porch, or office. With names like "Wiggle Side Chair" and "Easy Edges Side Chair," he actually marketed to middle-class homeowners in department stores by pricing them within their budget. Rather than looking modular or rectilinear, these chairs curve, bend, and squiggle in flowing, wavy lines.

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Later, Gehry expanded his side chair designs to make grand, rolling recliner cardboard chairs with ottomans. These look rougher, with offset and stepped corrugations, almost resembling rattan with their natural cardboard brown color. This series was less utilitarian, as the large chairs were meant to be displayed in art galleries, but they also pushed the conceptual boundaries of the purpose of cardboard.

Many design, architecture, and engineering colleges, inspired by Gehry's ideas, assign students to make their own chairs solely out of cardboard boxes. Yet even amateur do-it-yourselfers have adapted corrugated cardboard to construct their own customized furniture to decorate their apartment. These hobbyists value cardboard for its affordability, recyclability, strength, and potential for imagination. Some of their cardboard chairs are foldable and portable to be used in parks and other public spaces. Some are designed to be used as a chair, table, and storage unit all in one. You might be able to find free plans to make your own cardboard furniture.

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