Have you ever noticed the waves that hide inside brown cardboard boxes which move silently and unobtrusively through the world? They are in the material itself, a thin sheet of paper undulating between two thicker sheets of cardboard. These paper waves create space and structure. By trapping air and a having a crushable zone, corrugated cardboard is light, strong and even insulating and protective.
For the design of The Timeless Box, a skybox in the Johan Cruijff ArenA in Amsterdam, commissioned by Hans van Veggel and Timeless Investments, the architectural studio ZJA applied this everyday material, but ignored all the useful qualities. It is about the beauty that can be generated by a combined action of two types of waves: mechanically regular, and waves with a more natural regularity.
Nowadays we use recycled paper to produce cardboard, but traditionally cardboard was made from straw. The fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskin tells us straw can be turned into gold. A king incarcerates a miller’s daughter and orders her to turn a heap of straw into gold using her spinning wheel. She is desperate but is saved by the appearance of a mysterious, sarcastic goblin, who sets himself behind the spinning wheel and magically changes the humble waste material into something precious and hypnotic: gold.
ZJA used an extremely inexpensive material to make The Timeless Box: 6000 sheets of 6mm thick corrugated cardboard sheets. Their spinning wheel was the computer they used to produce a parametric design. The soft, flowing lines in the walls, the bench and the bar are determined by algorithms that in nature describe hills, ripples in a lake or the ribbed sand dunes in the desert. This design was transferred to the cardboard by laser cutter, one sheet at a time. A very repetitive job, but note that not one sheet is identical. Then, echoing the many hours at the spinning wheel in the fairy tale, came the slow and painstaking work of gluing the thousands of sheets on top of each other, one by one. The result is an environment that offers a captivating visual and spatial experience, alluding to natural beauty. And all this without the help of the likes of Rumpelstiltskin.
Sometimes the material resembles water, then again it is like a coarse textile, suddenly changing into a rock formation. All these metamorphoses are the result of mathematically merging two types of waves. The straight, regular waves in the cardboard collide with the many graceful waves that were laser cut into it. These two types of waves intersect, creating shadows and new wave patterns. If you take some time, and move about, you’ll discover many nuances of colour, changing depths, light and dark waves and counter waves. And yes, sometimes you can catch a glimpse of liquid gold.
Cardboard and algorithms
Being in the Timeless Box you are inside a sculpture where music for the eyes is made of light, cardboard and algorithms. Almost as if this was the result of a natural phenomenon. The Timeless Box shows that you can start with very humble and dull material, adding sophisticated design and the value of many hours of hard work and concentration and come up with an experience of beauty and luxury.
Principal: Hans van Veggel and Timeless Investments