Residents of Abu Dhabi might be familiar with buildings made from palm leaves and earth, but cardboard? Legendary Japanese architect Shigeru Ban built Design Souq – a mobile, recyclable pavilion made entirely out of cardboard that is every bit as sturdy as brick or stone.
Commissioned by the Abu Dhabi art festival that is held every November on Saadiyat Island, the capital’s illustrious cultural district, the Design Souq pavilion was constructed out of tubes of cardboard cut in varying sizes.
In addition to being perfectly strong and safe, to the surprise of many, the temporary pavilion provided shade and shelter, and its distinctive design helped draw attention to its real purpose – to highlight the region’s cultural heritage.
The Abu Dhabi Art Design Souq was established as a defined space for local designers and artisans to share their work and process with the public through presentations and workshops.
Among the artists present were Mohammad Al Mandi, Mohammed Abedin, Nazzy Beglari, Nasir Nasrallah,Aljoud Lootah, Janeth Quintanilla, and Azza Al Qubaisi, along with Francois Clerc and students from Center for Architecture, Art and Design at AUS.
Artisans of Intangible Cultural Heritage from the Culture Sector of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) also presented their work.
Ban’s favorite material, cardboard has a much smaller embodied carbon footprint than heavier, more permanent materials such as concrete, for example, and it is easily reused.
The temporary cardboard cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand built after a terrible earthquake leveled the original is probably the designer’s most famous, but his work has popped up all over the world – particularly after natural disasters.
Cardboard as a building material is growing in popularity. In Israel, inventor Izhar Gafni built a dirt cheap bicycle out of recycled cardboard, along with recycled plastic bottles and used car tires.
In a city as wealthy as Abu Dhabi, a building made out of cardboard might seem like a cheap trick, but we suspect it helps the local community rethink their conditioned notions of what makes a structure classy.
And it doesn’t have to be made of marble. As resources grow scarce and the planet becomes hotter and more crowded, art and design with a deliberately small impact is about as beautiful as it gets.