Paper Folding Workshop at College of Architecture and Design, Lawrence Technological University


Folding a piece of paper can be simple and doesn’t require any sophisticated tools. I often tell the students who participate my workshop that paper folding can do a lot more than computer CAD modeling. Since paper folding is unstable and flexible, manipulation of the paper surface to achieve depth and volume is dynamic. The fold stores kinetic energy, which allows the folded form to contract and unfurl. It can then be balanced, connected, hinged, suspended, pulled and popped up to alternate states of disequilibrium and equilibrium. Paper folding is unforgiving and honest. A folded form embeds the memory of a series of actions of scoring, creasing, twisting, wrapping, pressing, bending and folding. Unfolding folded paper reveals a patterned map of creating and generating. Paper folding is generative and evolving. It is difficult to describe an abstract folded form through its visual characteristics. Paper folding is improvisational and unpredictable. A simple fold has many possibilities and can generate many visual results, and it can only be discovered by folding.

About twenty students from the College of Architecture and Design at Lawrence Technological University participated the workshop. The workshop was conducted in the gallery The students are from Interior Design, Architecture and other programs.

I often begin my process using a step-by-step procedure, or algorithm, first by hand only. I demonstrated this technique to the students.  They started by folding smaller pieces of square paper into simple designs, and they then repeated the same steps for a multiple of times to create repetitions of these simple designs. And finally, they worked on connecting the folded pieces to create a larger form. The students learned that small seeds can be compounded and aggregated to create something that is a lot of complex than the original simple design.


Folded Light in Beginning Interior Architecture Studio

fullsizerender-1_editedIn my Beginning Interior Architecture Studio in Fall 2016, co-caught with Jei Kim and Jon Racek, the first year design students were asked to use paper folding design methodology to understand basic design  principles, such as unity, repetition, symmetry, contrast, etc. They were also asked to use the assembly and construction process in paper folding to produce a small scale light sculpture. The project was divided into three cohesive small parts that serve as scaffolds for the students. Prior to this project, majority of students had never folded before and had never made any design objects. Therefore learning scaffolds were necessary.

In the first part, the students were asked to create small units of paper folds from pieces of small square paper based on simple line draws they made using straight edges and compasses. They were asked to explore these pattern in both bilateral and quadrant symmetries. They were given a couple of examples learn about how to assign mountain and valley folds to the lines patterns and then they were asked to turn their own line patterns into crease patterns by exploring various ways of folding and cutting by hands. The students were intimated at first as they were not comfortable working with their hands. They soon gained confidences when they observed how flat pieces of square paper changed into something that had sculptural depths.

In the second part, the students were asked to connect at least eight units of their paper folds together. The goal was to generate somewhat seamless designs. Students were taught to connect the units by using ways to make symmetric pattern in plane, such as translation, rotation, reflection, glide-reflection. They were also taught to use polyhedron geometry to connect the units into spherical volumes. They studied platonic solids such as icosahedron and dodecahedron, Archimedean solids such as cuboctahedron and rhombicuboctahedrons, as well as Catalan solids such as rhombic dodecahedron and rhombic triacontahedron.

In the last part, the students were asked to add more units to create a volumetric paper sculpture. They were graded on the craftsmanship and the final lighted presentation. Many of the students turned in interesting works. Most students did a good job creating their units design, however, they had more difficulty connecting the units together to generate structure volumes.

Special thanks to Noelle Zeichner, Abigail Stawick, Julia Gilstrap and Yuning Ding for providing some of the pictures shown in this blog. For my Folded Light Art brand, please visit

C481 Workshop on Digital Fabrication and Interior Design


This post has been rewritten and published in IDEC Exchange: A Forum for Interior Design Education, Spring 2016.

Citation: Wu, J. (2016). Materialization Matters: Weekend Workshop on Digital Fabrication and Interior Design, IDEC Exchange: A Forum for Interior Design Education, Spring 2016

This one credit hour weekend workshop introduced design students to tools, work-flow, and considerations in digital fabrication and its creative application in contemporary interior design. In recent years, the culture of custom digital fabrication has heavily influenced the practice of architecture, interior design and design pedagogy. The focus of the workshop was to materialize a digital design to a 1:1 scale interior skin installation as a group. The learning goal of the workshop was to understand the basics of work-flow and considerations between digital design and physical making in the context of large-scale installation. Besides the hands-on making and learning, the students also had the opportunity to visit an industrial-scale fabrication shop, Noblitt Fabricating, in Columbus, Indiana.

The center of this workshop was the latest iteration of Ruga Interior Skin. The free-form geometric surface was modeled in Grasshopper and Rhino before the workshop. The main folding pattern was Yoshimura pattern. It was made up of 68 unique pieces of panels that were folded and connected to form a large semi-structural interior skin that stood about 8 feet in height, 15 feet in width and 12 feet in length. This was the first time I conducted this workshop, I was a bit nervous and not sure what to expect of the installation outcome. We started by folding the laser cut cardboard pieces, fabricated by Steve Dixon at Noblitt Fabricating, at 10 am on Saturday. By 1 pm, 68 unique pieces of cardboard were all folded and ready for assembly and installation. Because of the free-form geometric design, these 68 panels cannot be connected in flat surface. The only way to connect these panels is to hang them sequentially in segments and to allow the gravity to fold the pre-scored mountain and valley crease lines while connecting them using rivets, nuts and bolts. While this process proved to be a very difficult task, the students in the workshop were enthusiastic. This hands-on experience required them to self-organize and figure out a system to piece together the panels. In three hours, the large interior skin installation was completed! What a great job! Special thanks goes to Steve Dixon and to the following students who work extremely hard: Yueyang Chen, Madeline Collins, Anqi Fan, Flute Fu, Xinhui Fu, Renzhi Huang, Tianxing Shen, Erin Stump, Han Sun, Zhiyu Wang and Zhanhua Yan. Congratulations to you all!