Introduction: A Cardboard Monument for Readers

About: I studied Design and Context, Education in the Arts and Fine Arts (Department of Photography) at the Academy of fine arts Vienna. Have been teaching 10+ years since then. I love sailing, kayaking, canoeing an…

An Introduction

Our school happened to celebrate it's 10th anniversary this year. Our task as teachers was to make as much of our students accomplishments (and our underlying efforts) visible for the public celebration. My colleagues and I happen to be Arts (and Craft/Shop) teachers so naturally we get tapped for the hard creative work.


Some occasion.

Some cardboard or paper if you would like to start small.

Scissors, glue, cutter knife, hot glue and always bring some friends.

Step 1: A Conversation

In this special case Tom asked me if I knew how he could build a head out of paper mache. During the chat he slowly revealed the dimensions and the timeline of just some weeks. We have build our fair share of big paper mache animals and objects but this monument called for some other technique so I offered to maybe do a support structure from slotted cardboard where they could form over.

After some talking he had me at the point where I ended up bragging I could design and build a hollow, lightweight, 2m 3D head out of faces in just 3 three weeks problem.

Step 2: ​An Idea

The idea was to create a huge head (just over two meters in hight) with some rods extending out around the front where photos printed on acrylic glass would be affixed. The head would get installed on top of our school technicians' (Willies') booth, looking at the somewhat not that obvious staircase to the library on the third floor. The pictures where chosen to depict various literature topics. There are also some signs mounted on the railing from which you can see the head. The library is located in the roof above the front entrance. Some pictures for reference.

Step 3: A Drawing

Tom in charge of all the graphic ID stuff at school (thank you for doing this, I hate his tinkering with all the graphics stuff) and pretty good at sketching out some ideas fast. I got this little drawing and some pics he found online from him.

I happen to have done my fair share of 3D objects before. Mostly I do boats and so I just started my trusty computer and began with the usual 3D drawing. The head was done in a couple of minutes (maybe hours but who is counting...) and I whatsapped some pictures and video of the rotating head over to Tom for review. I did some corrections and unfolded the net to get the individual faces. I then drew some tabs to stick the open faces together and assembled the faces to fit the size of a sheet of corrugated cardboard (full sheets are 1850mm by 1650mm). I do print these as PDF and always include some measurements to double check if the print matches in size.

Step 4: A Model

Before I move on to the real think I like to build a model to see how it looks and feels in flesh (or paper). I scaled the drawings accordingly and printed on some 160g A3+ paper.o

Now here is some benefit of being a teacher...I got lots of kids around that can do the sticky and boring work for me. After a double lesson the model of the head was completed. Thank you students! PDF attached for your crafting pleasure. Be sure to print every sheet to the same scale.

Step 5: ​A Brother

I got one of those. This one brother happens to be a gifte graphic designer himself, studied textile design and went on to create bed linen (the graphics) for a living. When his boss retired the factory was sold to a big company that was also in need of a designer at the same location. My brother was sent to Germany to learn some new software and from that moment on he was designing cardboard packaging, cardboard boxes, cardboard furniture, cardboard pallets, cardboard whatever you could imagine... There's that, a genius brother sitting on endless supplies of cardboard and being in command of a huge CNC machine to cut (got an oscillating knife and can also press for folding) the stuff to size. Corrugated cardboard comes in brown or white, single wave (3 layers) or double wave (5 layers). We used single wave white. Double wave is really heavy and hard stuff which you could use for layered designs or if you slot pieces. Our simple head receives its rigidity from the form itself and only has to support it's own weight. I wish everybody had a younger brother like mine. Love you very much brother!

Step 6: A Small Car

There's always this question coming up. Will it fit? Yes it did and I got a next day delivery.

Step 7: ​A Team and A-ssembly ;)

We had half a day to put the thing together (a conference day where we would work in sessions together). Lukas had prepared some steel for a structure to mount the head and the rods (for the pictures) on. The head alone could have been done without that support but with the rods we needed some solid support structure to avoid shish-student if the whole thing would ever come down.
Kathy and I glued the parts together with hot glue like also used with production cardboard boxes. First the neck, the middle and then the sides of the head. I routed some grooves in a two plywood pieces where the (threaded) rods extending out of the head would get sandwiched in between. Then we had to tinker some with the 3D model to indicate the right positions where the rods would protrude. No biggie, all holes accounted for. The whole head received some layers of white acrylic paint over the already white cardboard and some painters tape across the seams to smooth the edges.. Another labor outsourced to a gang of students.

Step 8: ​A Scaffolding

Then there only was the issue of getting the head on it's steel base over on top of that booth six meters over ground. A film team happened to use our school for filming a "Tatort" this summer and they had a scaffolding on site. Sadly I was not there when they scaled that thing and heaved our great monument over on the platform. A PE teacher, a passionate rock climber, set some rock anchors into the concrete and the work was done.

Unfortunately I couldn't witness this great feat personally. I definitely would have taken more pictures.

Step 9: a MONUMENT for Readers

Here are some pictures of the text accompanying our monument. Sorry, it's in some strange language. In a nutshell it tells how we support and promote reading at our school and shows the visitors the way to the library (the staircase to the right ). Reading is adventure in the head and there is our monumental head visualizing just that.

Cardboard Speed Challenge

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Cardboard Speed Challenge