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Origami Architecture - Concepts and Strategies

What is Origami Architecture?

Remember when you were a kid, years before opting for architecture in college, you would sit down with your friends to fold paper into beautiful shapes? Good news - it's possible to literally do a building-sized version of that once you get that degree.

Origami Architecture - Types and Examples

Origami is a traditional Japanese art of paper folding, an idea that has found itself in various professional fields such as modern sciences, fashion, as well as architecture in modern times. 

What is Origami Architecture?

Origami transforms a mere piece of paper into a delicate yet sturdy sculpture, which is actually the concept behind spatial transformation in architecture. With the decline in urban spaces, there is a need for constant transformation and multi-use spaces. 

Types Of Origami Architecture

  1. Static origami
  2. Dynamic origami

A) Static Origami

This type is often used as a structural strength with no motion once folded or made. This is used for either temporary shelters or for sustainability purposes in buildings.

Bilbao Health Department, Spain

Static Origami in Bilbao Health Department

Built under a myriad of challenges related to the city rules and regulations, the unique façade and form of the building was inspired from origami art.

This glass prism as the façade is not only eye-catching to look at, it also promotes undisturbed air flow through the structure, avoiding the use of air conditioning systems. This consequently reduces noise pollution.

Instant Flat Pack Origami Shelter by Doowan Suh

Instant Flat Pack Shelter

The transformability of this structure allows for easy transportation, while the compressibility allows reduction in size where makeshift spaces are necessary. As a modular design, these flat packs can be used as a single unit or joined with more units to create a larger space.

B) Dynamic origami

In dynamic buildings, there is scope for a more kinetic and responsive skin. The building facade or in some cases, its structure itself changes in response to site factors.

Al Bahr Tower, AHR

Al Bahr Tower

In order to reduce the amount of intense heat and glare coming inside the building, a dynamic facade was designed and installed in the towers which changes in response to sun exposure and angles. The foldable screen acts as a curtain wall which regulates indoor comfort levels and the building's exposure to sun.


  1. No need for complexity

Since origami is sturdy and self-supported by itself, the structure does not need complex structural designs.

  1. Easier to make models and prototypes

We find it easier to visualize and explain using models, instead of sketches or orthographic drawings.

  1. Easy to use

It is one skill that people from all ages and occupations are familiar with. 


  1. No Flexibility

These are less frequently used for certain building types like habitat-related purposes. 

  1. Limitations in the type of materials used

The use of the structure defines its material - whether the structure is to be light and movable, or static and making a statement.

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. 

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