When thinking about the design for my stool, I wanted it to be strong, but also have a unique aspect. I did quite a few drafts to get the ideas flowing, and I decided I liked the “lattice” look. It was also a strong type of joint, which is why I chose it. In class, Anca has commented on the fact that buildings are inherently wider on the bottom than they are the top. I took this design feature and put it into my stool. Once the construction process was complete, I noticed that the stool could be flipped upside down and sat on that way as well. While I prefer the stool with the wider part at the bottom, it was brought to my attention during the critique that it is interesting the other way, because it is somewhat unexpected. The stool being large at the bottom and small at the top seems to be more of a physical structure, where as the stool being small and the bottom and large at the top is a more perceptual structure.
My favorite detail of the stool is the lattice work. When you look at the top of the stool, you can see the shadows from the intersecting pieces of cardboard. I like this aspect as it adds a sense of “depth” to the stool. In lecture, the concept that detail has shifted from being in the hands off the worker to being in the hands of the architect, was discussed. When thinking about my own stool and others that were designed for this project, I find it interesting that the details I like were the ones that were “handcrafted”. In other words, when I drew sketches of this stool, I used perfectly straight lines, but when I cut this out of cardboard, the lines didn’t turn out to be quite perfect. At first, I didn’t necessarily like this “hand worked” detail, but I really do think it gives the stools character that wouldn’t be present if they were all laser cut.
Thinking about the Roth reading on firmness, I definitely think my stool has a sense of firmness that was not as apparent in other stools. This was a result of the lattice work that gives strength and the design of the larger bottom, as discussed. Toward the end of this article, Roth brings up the idea that the material itself has a lot to say regarding firmness and strength. Obviously, cardboard doesn’t inherently imply strength, but I was surprised that the designs themselves could really overcome this issue. You could also say that there was a sense of “risk” involved by choosing to sit on a cardboard stool, which in my opinion made this project a little more fun.
Something that I kept consistent throughout my iteration of the stool project was its shape. I wanted it to be wider at the top than at the bottom. I thought this would be more interesting visually than a rectangle. I think it also makes it “seem” or “perceive” to be less stable. The idea that something can be perceived to be something while in reality is it is different is something that Rasmussen explores and claims that is an aspect of architecture that buildings can play with.
As I went from my earlier version to my final draft however, there were a couple of important distinctions in the meaning of the shape. In the early draft, the shape was central to the structure of the stool itself. The sloping sides made up the load-bearing wall, and was less ornament, and more about the actual structure of the stool. In my final version however, the shape was purely ornamental, achieved by cutting the perpendicular sections to the proper shape.
While the shape of the sections is ornamental, the sections bracing both of the long sides of the stool are important to its structure. It is these vertical pieces that bear most of the load. When looked at from the top, how exactly it is constructed is made clear, but also offers visual interest. In this sense, the sections display what Sekler describes as tectonics, “a certain expressivity arising from the statical resistance of constructional form in such a way that the resultant expression could not be be accounted for in terms of structure and construction alone.”
The perpendicular sections I think give the stool a “sharpness” as compared to my earlier draft. The early draft feels “softer” in comparison, a distinction that can actually be felt if you run your hands along the side. I think if I were to do the project again, I would attach a flat side to each of the perpendicular sections. This would preserve the visual interest offered by the perpendicular sections when looked at from the top, but also make the sides feel smoother.
I chose the shape not only for the visual aspect, but also for a pragmatic reason. A narrower bottom allows a person sitting to position their legs in more ways. Someone could tuck their legs in against the bottom of the stool, hang them straight down, or extend them all the way out. A wider base would restrict some of these options.
When I began my stool design, I did not have a single guiding idea and as a result my first draft was not focused. On my next draft I expanded was more focused on the vertical lattice and explored a modern take on the typical four-legged stool. Because the lattice was crucial for the structure and strength of the design, I had to be very precise with my measurements. If any of the cuts were not perfectly centered the whole structure would not fit together. This meant taking into consideration the width of single sheets and also the cross-sections on the edge of the lattice. I also made sure to be aware of the strength and structure of the cardboard. The larger, load bearing pieces are used with the corrugation oriented horizontally to spread out the weight from small points where the seat platform connects to the body. The outer legs are also important to the structure and ornament. It is important to view the structure as a whole with the importance of the “detail as joint.” (Frascari 211) Although the four leg structures are mostly for aesthetic purposes, because they are measured to be the exact same length as the body of the stool they do end up supporting some of the overall weight. The entire project was an exploration into tectonics as I focused on utilizing each piece of the structure to support as much weight as possible.
While the body of the stool supports the platform, the lattice is the most important part of the stool. The use of alternating tooth patterns successfully distributes weight evenly to the body of the structure. I chose a lattice because of its strength and relatively light appearance. The structures ability to spread weight evenly meant that I was able to rest it on the walls of the body without continuing the latticework lower through the body. By limiting the inner lattice I was able to keep the focus more on outer points where the ends of the lattice meet. The “selection of appropriate details” was crucial to maintaining focus on the lattice and its vertical structure (Frascari 503). Although my stool could hold much more weight than originally expected, over 200 pounds, I was more focused on making the details work towards the strength of the whole as well as being aesthetically interesting.
When I initially started this project, I had no idea where to begin. I tried to think if I have ever created something similar to this, a project that takes a very unique form of thinking and creativity. My initial design I created from three by five notecards and when transformed into cardboard, could not hold my weight at all. After using a significant amount of my cardboard, I realized I had to completely re-address my plan. This new plan had to use a lot less cardboard and had to be significantly stronger.
I now was aiming towards efficiency, not necessarily using as little cardboard as possible, but using simplistic shapes and joints in order to create a strong structure. I began playing around with a triangle shape and fitting pieces of cardboard together to form two triangles. This included only two joints with two notches cut into each piece of cardboard. I then simply created a seat by cutting out a piece of cardboard that rested on top. This design was significantly stronger than my original idea. However, the more and more I sat on it, the more and more the triangle shapes, lost their shape. When the stool lost this shape, it was no longer sturdy enough to hold me.
Going into making my final draft, I knew I had to keep tectonics in mind. Tectonic is putting things together with intention. Not only for sake of not running out of cardboard, but also to understand the meaning behind each cut I made in the cardboard. I was able to re-cut one of the triangle pieces and make the notches a lot smaller to have stronger joints. I also added two additional smaller pieces of cardboard to keep the triangles in place and maintain their shape. The structure became much more secure and strong. The stool was now able to hold my weight over an extended period of time. I also decided to keep the removable seat. I liked how when the seat was removed you can see the pattern of the triangles. The space underneath can also be thought of as a storage space, giving the stool a variety of uses.
At the beginning of the cardboard stool-making process I wanted to focus on using a variety of joints to piece together the components. I experimented with using slots, wedges, and keyhole slots to interlock different pieces of cardboard but it seemed that the slot joint was the most stable and strong. A challenge that I established for myself was not to use the slot joinery in the conventional orientation that has proven to be the most stable. My goal was to create a stool that had splayed legs. In this way, I was working with the tectonics of the stool, trying to create a form that looked as if it was counter-intuitive for holding weight. According to Sekler, tectonics is “A certain expressivity arising from the statical resistance of constructional form.” Following along his idea, I was attempting to create a stool that would hold weight despite how one would expect it to according to its structure but ultimately, my stool could not hold the full weight of an individual.
As for detail, following along Frascari’s belief that the “art of detailing is in the joining of materials, elements, components, and building parts…”, I purposely tried to join different components of the stool in various ways. For each individual leg, I used one continuous piece of cardboard, folded in half. Then I bent the cardboard in three locations, I slid one end into the other, creating a tight wedge which held the triangular form together. Having two separate stool legs, I had to use a horizontal crossbeam to hold the legs together. I attached two beams right the top of the legs and two more a couple of inches below that, cutting slots into the legs and supports to fit them together. Lastly, I decided to attach an extra plain piece of cardboard on the top to hide the gap between the two legs and to give the form a more simplified exterior. For this, I had to cut four slits into the four corners of the cardboard seat and through the legs. I used narrow strips of flattened and flexible cardboard, sliding them through the slits and slotting the strips to themselves to make it look like I had tied the cardboard seat to the legs with a ribbon.
In terms of structure, I really struggled with keeping the legs from sliding apart from underneath the stool because I had purposely decided to tilt them outwards. I believe this would have been remedied had I added an attachment at the bottom that would have tied the two legs together and resisted the downward force that would pull the legs apart. However, I made a conscious decision not to add that bottom support as I thought it would take away from the aesthetic balance that I was looking for.
The goal for my stool was to make a structure of fully perpendicular and parallel cardboard pieces with an increased central support to handle loads. I wanted it to be efficient in regards to cardboard use, while also looking aesthetically intriguing. I took into account the three main project concepts of tectonics, detail, and structure. I named it “Plus Sign” in honor of my creativity level and shape of the stool.
Tectonics, as quoted from lecture, is “the means of putting things together with intention and the acknowledgement of gravitational forces through the arrangement and form of the openings.” (Anca, Lecture 9) When looking at the stool, you can see my intention was to cut slits into the main structure and then place thin pieces of cardboard to attach them together, so that the chair would not topple over when simply placed on the ground.
With regard to detail, I wanted it to be a simple, articulated structure. By that, I mean I wanted to leave the structure open as a means to bring out the design and reveal the force-bearing areas. “In the details are the possibilities of innovation and invention, and it is through these that the architects can give harmony to the most uncommon and difficult or disorderly environment generated by culture.” (Marco Frascari, Lecture 10) While walking around during the exhibit, I noticed no other person had attempted my design style. I wanted to innovate and display the way I could best produce a stool with cardboard, while portraying a simple “+” shape, with the following specifications:
Attachment points assuming ground is 0’’:
Side 1 and side 3: 2’’, 6’’, 10’’, and14’’
Side 2 and side 4: 3’’, 7’’, 11’’, and 15’’
16 5’’ slits with cuts at 0’’ (middle), +1’’ and –1’’
Given the following specifications, I can Segway into the structural aspect of my stool. From lecture, “Structure an assemblage of materials to sustain a load.” (Anca, Lecture 11) I made a strong, central load-bearing point that does not deform from downward forces of weight. The attached seat allows for a distributed load across an area, further stabilizing and strengthening the structure. Along these lines, Roth believes in “making sure that objects will not fall to earth, despite the incessant pull of gravity” (Roth, 19) The chair sits on the ground with little problem, and can be easily transported without gravity pulling the attachments out of the main structure.
In the end, I went with a simplistic, articulated “+” shape structure that is practical and can handle my full weight with ease. I’m content with my final chair design, when comparing it to my highly inefficient prototype stool.