Response 4: Stool Documents

Matthew Palathingal

(Unfortunately before I took the final pictures one of my friends jumped on it and it’s a bit tilted, but it’s still very sturdy)

When I first heard that our stools had to be made entirely of cardboard and we couldn’t use any other material in our project, I became intrigued with the idea of comfortably supporting a body fully off the ground. I built my chair with the image of only cardboard separating my body and the floor beneath me.

“Architecture is the crystallization of its inner structure, the slow unfolding of form.” This quote from Mies van der Rohe exemplifies how I built my project. I started with a clear idea, but then I just kept adding to it as my project unfolded. I started with the top of the chair. First, I used a cardboard box to make the seat. I cut the flaps off a cardboard box. Then, using a notch technique, I used the flaps to create triangular supports within the first box and covered it, and then slid that inside the main ring of the other box, like a sheath. This allowed me to squeeze cardboard in between the two and have it fit very snugly.

I used this to build the back of the chair. I slid pieces of cardboard between the seat and its sheath to make a sturdy back. At this point, I had finished my first draft. I showed Kelsey my idea, and she suggested that if I wanted to play on the idea of suspending someone above the ground, adding legs to the chair (which would add height and decrease the area of the base) would add to the effect of being supported just on the material. I really liked this idea, so I built four triangular legs out of cardboard sheets.

The problem here was that the legs had no way of attaching to the seat. I tri-folded a sheet of cardboard and slid the ends partially into the sheath, so there was a hollow rectangular region. I then cut triangular holes in the sheet, and fit the legs into them, sliding them through the hollow region and hitting the base of the chair. To stabilize the legs, I slid another sheet of cardboard onto the legs and left it near the bottom, so the legs of the chair wouldn’t spread or shift. This actually adds a small aesthetic detail that serves a function, and it was my favorite little part of the project. It reminded me of the kinds of caps we saw in the Greek order of columns.

The last part of my project was a leg rest for comfort. This was a totally spontaneous and unplanned part of the project. Sitting fully suspended with your knees at a 90-degree angle puts stress on the joints and is uncomfortable (a problem I didn’t account for in my original plan), so I decided I needed a way to increase the angle that your legs were suspended. I added a footrest that protruded from the sheath and bent it so that it had a support that was perpendicular to the seat, so it wouldn’t collapse.

In the end, to have a little fun with aesthetics, I spray painted my chair. I made a stencil block M out of paper, grabbed some spray paint and plastic trash bags, went outside of South Quad and had at it. I started by spraying the seat gray, and the rest of the chair white. I sprayed the left and right sides yellow, then taped the stencil onto them, then sprayed white over the whole side to get the yellow block Ms.

“An architecture of complexity and accommodation does not forsake the whole. In fact, [there is] a special obligation towards the whole because the whole is difficult to achieve.” -Robert Venturi

I believe this quote sums up the stool project for me. The whole time I was working on unfolding the ideas of my chair, like adding the back, the padding for the seat, the legs, or the footrest, I had to constantly consider the main part of the project: the tectonics and the battle against gravity. This need to defy gravity ironically grounded me, and was an awesome limitation to have to think around. I feel that this was especially the case in my chair, because if your feet aren’t touching the ground, they can’t bear weight. My chair was holding the full force of a person because the users’ feet weren’t on the ground. For this, I had to build an interior design that would spread the load evenly across the seat, to the corners of the box, to the legs, and this was the biggest challenge of the project. If I had to do this project over again, however, I would definitely make sure to use a box cutter  instead of scissors.

Response #4



When I was first approaching this project, I wanted to start off with an interesting idea then see if I could try to find a way for it to support an individual as well. I wanted to use a hexagonal based pyramid have its base protrude outwards on the top as to emphasise the seat of the stool. In my first draft, the cardboard pyramid structure was inserted into an opening on a simple square notching structure. Although this attempt at the idea looked intriguing and could hold some weight, I was wary that it that it wouldn’t be able to hold a large amount of pressure as the support was very hollow inside.


Moving forward, I tried to come up with a way to cleverly support the seat. However, as time went on, I realised that the design was becoming very inefficient in terms of structure and the calculations that I had made in the design were not translating into real life very precisely. The supporting structure for the stool couldn’t snuggly hold the pyramid seat without loosing structural stability, and it was difficult to come up with a way that would satisfy both structure and aesthetics. I figured that I should depart from the  original idea so that it could actually accomplish its function of supporting someone.


In the new design, I didn’t want to abandon all aspects of the design and tried to find some way to reuse the pieces from my previous attempt.Like Frascari wrote “Architecture is an art because it is interested not only in the original need for shelter but also in putting spaces and materials in a meaningful manner”. I decided to use that I still wanted to keep the hexagonal structure from the old design. I cut out six cardboard slots and arranged them so that they would point towards the center to form a hexagonal shape. I then connected them using outer frames that attached with single notchings, alternating them so the notchings wouldn’t interfere with each other. To help keep the slots in place and add some structural support, I connected each of the slots onto a small hexagonal ring located underneath the center of the stool. Utilizing the pyramid from the first attempt, I used it as a nice ornament for the top of the stool and added a hexagonal ring to cover more surface area.

If I were to improve this design, I would probably have added another iteration of notchings to add structural support and try to make the stool more stable in general. Looking back, I think it definitely would have been better to try and make a design that was structurally sound first before working on making it interesting rather than the other way around. It might have also benefited to make the stool smaller in height so that it would be easier to edit later on. Nevertheless, this project was an enjoyable way of learning the process of designing and what is important to consider when making something of use.



Response 4

When I first started the stool project, I wanted to create a stool that was similar to a log cabin. I used a square design shape for my rough draft and cut slits into the cardboard to have the pieces fit across like a log cabin. Afterwards I realized that triangles provide much more support than squares do and switched my design to triangles. I cut slits into the triangles as well, but this time I cut slits into both the piece on the bottom and the top so that they fit together. This strategy proved to be much stronger and sturdier than just cutting one of the pieces of cardboard. I used detail in my stool by putting smaller pieces into the triangles themselves. Again, I cut slits into the bigger pieces so that the small pieces fit tightly. Frascari says “In the details are the possibilities of innovation and invention.” I believe that I showed these qualities in the details of my stool because they were my original ideas that I came upon by trying strategies until one of them worked to hold up the stool better. Another part of my stool where I used detail would be the covers that I put on the top of the stool for where you sit. I was trying to think of a way to use a seat cover so that it didn’t cover up the whole top so that you were able to see the inside of the stool. To do this, I used three rectangular shaped pieces of cardboard and fit them into slits I had made into the larger triangular pieces. The rectangular pieces did not bend down all the way, unless you sat on them, so it gave the illusion of being unsturdy while showing the inside of the stool. If I had the opportunity to do this project differently, I would have gone to Walmart or a similar store and bought less worn down cardboard rather than getting used cardboard.

Written Response #4

The whole process of making the cardboard stool was a very tough and challenging, but exciting journey for me. The first step that I took for this project was to understand the properties of the cardboard. As we discussed in the lab section, the cardboard can be oriented so that the insides of the cardboard are all vertical or horizontal. If placed in a vertical manner, the cardboard exhibits a rather sturdy property. If placed in a horizontal manner, the cardboard is easier to fold and shows a more flexible quality. Since a person will be sitting on the stool that I make, I made sure that all the inside where placed vertically.


My first two drafts of the stools were in layer form. I thought it would be great to have a bigger base and as it goes up, the body becomes smaller, which is a typical design of a stable structure. I found out that the layers sink downwards as I sat on the stool for a long time. So I realized that cardboard would not be able to withstand the human weight if placed in layers. And from the reading by Leland Roth, he said “The objective has been to get the maximum structural performance from the minimum amount of material, with joints and connections made as small as possible”. Based on this statement, I realized that my layer stool would have way too many joints to consider.


Therefore, I decided to completely change 503174fa-74df-43ee-9e12-d97ef01eabfathe design of my final stool. I reduced the number of joints to one: just one in the middle of the stool. I crossed the two X-flaps, and placed the seats on both ends. The size of the stool was also thought out thoroughly. I first measured the chairs that we have in our dorm room to get the comfortable height of the stool, and then I measured the top diameter of the stool found in our dorm kitchen as reference. One component that I really like about my design is that it is symmetrical vertically and horizontally.




Focusing on details now. The first aspect that is noticeable about the stool is that it is not the typical cardboard color. I found out that stores actually sell pre-painted cardboard, so I bought the Michigan school colored (blue and maize) cardboard to assemble my final stool. I made the two X-flaps different colors so that when I assemble the two together by crossing it, the colors would alternate. Also, I made the two seats different colors so that people can choose which color they would sit on. I added small design by making cuts on side of the seats so that it doesn’t look so plain.

To further develop my design, I wish to make a spinning stool. I was planning to place a rod in the middle of the stool and put two layers of seat so that the uppermost layer spins smoothly, but making the rod out of cardboard was very tough.

Overall, the cardboard project was a fun experience.

(Below are other photos that I took as I was making the stool)


Response #4

I came into the project nervous because from past experience I am aware that I am not the most creative or hands on type of person; knowing this, I decided to really focus on the important requirement of the project- The stool had to comfortable support my weight. Having somehow missed the change in project guidelines allowing as much cardboard as one desires, I built my stool with two pieces of cardboard. I figured simple is always most efficient and knew that triangles would provide the best support. I made a rough design with this in mind, where the cardboard would be bent into a triangle and the tip would support the “seat” section. I only had used cardboard for the project, which was not a problem making the small design, because I could cut out an appropriate neat amount of material to use for my chair. It came out very sturdy and somewhat aesthetically pleasing in a simple way; I was glad. However, once a larger model had to be created, this proved extremely difficult. The cardboard had preexisting folds in it, weakening the structure as well as the cardboard available to me was just not exactly the necessary size for my original design (I needed a very long piece, not necessarily wide so as to make the ‘stool’ tall enough.)

With the material I still had from my last attempts I returned to the metaphorical drawing board- I had to create a design that required minimal material and folding of the cardboard because it was already quite utilized. I came up with a triangle within a square held together with tabs and a beam. As discussed in the reading and class, beams have terrific ability to support heavy weight. Then, I just added a flat coardboard piece on top to make the new “seat” and it was finished. This design, although not particularly visually appealing, successfully held all my weight! I could comfortable sit without any concerns.

My regret looking back at the project was not being more prepared. I was unaware of the rule change, not sure where to find good cardboard, unexposed to different methods of potentially building such a contraption, and did not possess any proper box cutting materials. I should have thought ahead more to what would be necessary as well as broadened my standards to have included aesthetic qualities. I was so preoccupied with functionality that I lost complete sight of design, which is a large portion of architecture. Having seen my other classmates’ designs in the showing on Thursday, I am, to begin, extremely impressed and highly inspired.

Response 4

For this project, my initial idea was to make a strong structure that can hold my body weight. I tried to figure out a way that best sustain the loads. Therefore, I decided to combine two supporting system together, a lattice and a “triangular” structure, both of which are regarded as good means of support. I started with the lattice base: four pieces of cardboards formed a square base and several other linear members connected the two sides of the square both horizontally and vertically. I got inspiration from the valley temple in the Pyramid of Khafre, where a “post and lintel” construction was used. Also, some other pieces converging in the center were made to further strengthen the structure. In this way, the center of the stool is the strongest to respond the center of gravity of a person when he sits on. My basic principle of fixing these pieces together is to cut out a lathy rectangle that allowed another piece inserting through the hollow space. The width of the hollow rectangle and the thickness of the cardboard perfectly fit together, in order to prevent any unstable movement of the whole structure.

The top part is made by folding three cardboards and connecting them together to make a triangular shape. In order to integrate the top and the base, I made several cuts on the bottom pieces, so that the edges of the top can penetrate into the base. I also made a lid to cover the seating area. This was made by bending the cardboard into two parts with one part inserted into the space between two triangular pieces below.

After my stool was stand up, I noticed that my stool could not be purely functional and structural, but also be decorative. According to Steel Rasmussen, a good architecture consists of beauty and utility. So I decided to add some pieces that were not doing structural work. The decoration took place at the back of the stool and I created these similar patterns of cardboard as a way to echo the front of the stool, where the folding of a cardboard stand out and formed a sharp edge.

What’s interesting about this stool is that the beauty of the structure cannot be directly observed. The lid on the top hides its structure and people can only recognize its inner beauty by opening the lid. Such experience is similar to the experience of an architecture. According to Roth, an architecture has a physical structure that people cannot fully see and a perceptual structure that they can recognize. Similarly, the entire story of the stool cannot be viewed by audiences through its exterior mass. But I want to show both the physical and perceptual structure to audiences: I design the lid to be easily opened because there is only one “fixed” point to the top part. In this way, people can easily see the physical structure and feel the charm of intersections and joints.

Just like the structure of Ionic or Corinthian columns, my stool is composed of a sound base and a top (similar to the capital) with some pieces of cardboard folding and intersecting together. The soundness of the base is significant to the support of the entire structure. And the ornamental elements adding to the structure, such as the outward-curling leaf on the capital of a Corinthian column, resemble the overlaying of bending pieces at the top.

As Virtruvius said, “architecture consists of “commodity, firmness and delight” and so does the stool project. There are correlations between architecture and this project and their designs share similar properties, aesthetic and functional.

Response #4

For the Rocking Stool, I originally wanted only to manipulate the typical idea of what cardboard is like; cardboard is considered sturdy, sharp, geometric. My original designs for my stool played mainly with the idea of changing that form and creating something malleable, weightless, and curved by using latticing techniques. I was also thinking about the human body originally, and wanted my stool to be formed around the shape that a cushion might take when compressed by someone sitting on it.


As I worked on refining the design into something doable, I inevitably came to the realization that I would have to simplify the style of the stool for the sake of what I was capable of pulling off with my skillset and timeframe. Because of this, I decided to simplify but retain the ideas of having the shape better fit the body of a person and the idea of the rounded, non-geometric form.


Thinking about tectonics, I tried to create a stool whose inner work was exposed on the face of it, which is why I left the slats that create the structure exposed instead of hiding them inside. A part of the challenge that I levered against myself was to also create a simple design, with as little support as I thought I could manage. I also wanted to make a stool whose shape was technically reversible, and this one is [the scored cover can be removed and placed back in on the other side], but it would also remove the stool’s ability to rock.


stool detail.jpg
the underside of the stool reveals the slats fully

The stool originally held weight well, but then two of the panels that carried much of the weight began to warp. One of these panels was especially weak from being handled too much. If I were to do this assignment again or just fix this one up a bit more, I would add a strip of reinforcement cardboard between the rounded panels on the outsides where they would rest against the floor in order to help them stay the proper distance from one another and not warp. I would also add small tabs to either side of the scored cover in order to help it maintain the shape I want it to hold. Finally, I would work on making my cuts cleaner, and I would possibly pursue combining my earlier lattice idea with the rocking idea to create a new form.


stool with the scored cover seated as it should be


Response 4

In the conception of my stool, I was planning on creating a reinforced stool with slots to hold the structure and creating a triangular lid to hold the cardboard together. The tension of the lid would keep the rest of the stool together; the idea of the lid came from Banker boxes. Those storage boxes use pre cut slots to fold within itself and use tension to hold everything together. I had developed a design that folds the cardboard to fit perfectly into cuts to hold everything together. However, the concept did not transfer well, pragmatically. I had composed a triangular stool with reinforcements in the actual seat but the lid did not create the tension as hoped. It was measure to fit the stool itself but the joints of the lid did not hold as well as hoped.

For the development process, I had used recycled cardboard in my final design. Some of the cardboard had already come with folds in the material; I had tried to use these to my advantage without bending the cardboard too much. The sheets were large and thin but easily malleable which made reinforcement more difficult.

If I were to change my design I would focus less on the triangular structure of the stool and instead work to create tension in the stool itself. Also, instead of a few large slots used to hold the stool together, I would use many small forms to reinforce the structure of the seat. As “[careful] detailing is the most important means for avoiding building failure,” I had focused too much on the overall design of the stool and not on the structural detail (Frascari 501). Instead, of trying to create a simple design with as little cardboard as possible, I would like to create something with the opposite idea in mind.