Origamic Architecture

Origamic Architecture

As many of you know, I’m writing a new book called Playing With Pop-Ups. I’m in the home stretch… my final manuscript is due July 1. I find this deadline both nerve wracking and relieving! But let me be the first to say that I’ll be smiling come July 1.
Pop-Ups were actually my entrée into the world of paper. Back in 1986, when I was an exchange student in Germany, I stumbled across a three-dimensional alphabet.
block up
I soon became obsessed with rendering it in three dimensions. It wasn’t as easy at it looks!
I’ve had mixed results when showing this image to people. Some people see it and some don’t. How about you – can you read it?
This work led to the discovery of Origamic Architecture (OA), which was a new medium back then (in the 80’s). A Japanese architect, Masahiro Chatani, is credited with developing this form of working with paper. He did some fascinating paper sculptures: pop-ups and slice forms.
This is one of his simple forms. I love it for the simple elegance. When you collapse it (or stretch the base sheet) it returns to its original state (a flat sheet of paper). In other words, just through cuts and folds, the paper transforms into three dimensions.
Here is another form that Chatani developed: the sliceform, which involves several slices of paper that are interlocked, kind of like a house of cards.
I recently made contact with Andrew Crawford, who carries a line of Chatani’s cards as well as products from other OA experts on his website. Chatani authored several books featuring projects and templates.
He also has a following, and there are many paper engineers today who are practicing and advancing OA. Two of them will be featured in Playing With Pop-Ups.
Ingrid Siliakus (who is also featured in Playing With Paper) spends up to a year developing some of her intricate paper sculptures.

Cosmopolitan, by Ingrid Siliakus

Cosmopolitan, by Ingrid Siliakus

Equinox, by Ingrid Siliakus

Equinox, by Ingrid Siliakus

Siliakus has also authored The Paper Architect, featuring templates for buildings you can fold yourself.
Elod Beregszazi is newer on the scene. He runs this website, Popupology, featuring a new line of pop-up jewelry, kinetic surfaces, and many DIY projects. Keep a look out for the project that Beregszazi contributed to Playing With Pop-Ups.
San Marco, by Popupology

San Marco, by Popupology

I’m going to leave you there for now. There are others who are pushing the limits with Origamic Architecture. Do tell us who you know about by leaving a comment below.
Now, back to finishing my book!


  1. Nancy House says:

    I could read your letters,…. such skill… I am always amazed when I see the work on your blog.

  2. Joanna Gair says:

    I could read your letters Helen, thanks once again for an inspiring blog…stunning images, mind blowing patience!

  3. I see your alphabet letters. This is a really interesting study-site with some fantastic work. I am new to origami. I have just discovered work by Joef Albers who taught origami but using circular paper. I also have an interest in type and typographic form.
    Is there a digital aspect to the projects illustrated?

    • Philip,
      No, as far as I know there is not any written instructions for these letters. I made it up myself! I had proposed to have it as a project in my next book, but the idea was nixed by my editors. Happy cutting! — Helen

  4. Muhammad Raza Khan says:

    Dear Helen,
    Cultural Foundation of Pakistan intends to arrange an pop up architectural exhibition in different educational institutions. I have seen your pop up cards reflecting architecture and these are very much suitable for our purpose.
    I would like to request you to donate us as many cards reflecting architecture as you may afford for our educational project. These cards will be displayed with your name in the exhibition. Please send us your reply through e-mail.
    Your kind support will enable us to educate youth for building a better future.
    Muhammad Raza Khan
    Cultural Foundation of Pakistan
    H. no. 10, Eden Park Farm Housing Society,
    Near Lahore Safari Zoo, Raiwind Road,
    Lahore, PAKISTAN

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