When Dutch design company Waarmakers was receiving parts for a new prototype, they all came in cardboard tubes. It got them thinking that perhaps the packaging could be the object itself. Enter the R16, a new wire-hung light that clips together using the packaging it came in: cardboard. Nor is Waarmakers alone in its vision. If cardboard has long been associated with disposability, and thus low value, now it’s being rediscovered as a unique material with a vast array of properties: cheap, lightweight, strong, structural, insulating, recyclable, cuttable, foldable — even waterproof if coated, not to mention familiar, textural and warm to the touch.
Kraniums has a cardboard cycle helmet, perhaps for Cardboardtech’s cardboard bicycle, Samsung has developed a cardboard laser printer and Vax a cardboard vacuum cleaner, Cardborigami and SadieShelters have both created pop-up shelters, while Wikkelhouse has gone further—it has created a modular system that allows a cardboard house, cabin or office to be built for just €25,000 ($26,800 U.S.). It has already built eight and has orders for eight more. “There’s the question of perception [to overcome],” admits Wikkelhouse’s Reck Buthter. “But the fact is that the more you explore cardboard, the more benefits it offers.”
There is, perhaps, gold to be had from adversity. Or at least art. Ask pundits and they might tell you that the unfavourable economic and political situation in Russia, for example, makes it a good time to buy Russian art which is precisely what the oligarchs are doing, expecting values to rise with their nation’s economic fortunes. “We’ve got a sell-through rate of 80% on Russian art—that’s a solid result following tremendous growth through the 2000s,” says Reto Barmettler, Sotheby’s head of Russian art. The high rollers are aiming high, too: Russian avant-garde works from 1915–25 and Soviet non-official art of the 1960s and 1970s—“whatever is extremely rare and best known outside of Russia,” Barmettler notes.
The zeitgeist is also working in their favour: with the centenary of the October 1917 Revolution approaching, “just about every big museum seems to be organising an exhibition around the Russian avant-garde for this year,” says Barmettler. But for those who want to strike it really big, think egg. Only 52 Faberge eggs were ever made, and most of those are in museums. The last sold at auction, in 2007, went for £8.9 million. Pocket one of them and there are rumors of offers of £20 million ($21.5 million U.S.) on the private market.
They are about as divisive as architecture gets: skyscrapers have led to activists arguing that they spoil a city’s skyline, while others—J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise’s grim warning notwithstanding—have stressed the social and even psychological cost of living in them.
And yet, with pressure on inner-city land space growing apace, with developers seeing no let-up in demand for megabucks residential investment property, and with architects—and even cities—keen to make their name with such signature buildings, more skyscapers are coming. London, for example, has some 49 towers of over 40 storeys currently consented or proposed, while Jeddah is building the Kingdom Tower, at over one kilometre set to be the world’s tallest building.
Whether or not the kind of sci-fi cityscape envisioned in this year’s Blade Runner 2049 comes to pass remains to be seen. What is clear is that the new materials and technologies that are making the building of skyscrapers that much easier and faster also makes them more durable. The skyscrapers being built today will likely still be here for generations to come.
Article originally appeared in the printed copy of Reside, Summer 2017.