Though shipping containers are ubiquitous in temporary construction, there's a new, perhaps unexpected, alternative: paper. Designed by brothers Ben and Daniel Dratz, of the Oberhausen, Germany–based firm Dratz&Dratz Architekten, the "Paper House" is a 2,045-square-foot pavilion made of 550 bales of compressed paper recycled from local supermarkets.
Courtesy Dratz&Dratz Architekten
Location Essen, Germany (UNESCO World Heritage site)
Gross area 2,045 ft2 (190 m2)
Program Pavilion and exhibit space
TEAM & SOURCES
Architect, developer and owner Dratz&Dratz Architekten
The Dratz brothers won the commission to build the $200,000 structure—which sits on the grounds of a former mining complex (a UNESCO World Heritage site)—through a competition for young architects sponsored by the site's developer in cooperation with Essen's Zollverein School of Management and Design (ZSMD), which aimed to bring a creative district to the area. Over a period of eight months, the Dratz brothers, who also acted as the project's developers and owners, leased the space to architects and other design professionals interested in a sustainable, temporary workspace.
Through a series of tests conducted in partnership with ZSMD, Ben and Daniel learned that it is possible to use the bales to build up to 100 feet high. And the tightly compressed paper bales kept out heavy rains and wind in an uncharacteristically wet summer, reports Ben, allaying the duo's initial concerns about the pavilion's durability. "We were surprised that after several days of hard rain and one day of sun the bales were dry," says Ben. The untreated bales formed what the Dratz brothers call a lamellar barrier, keeping rainwater out and funneling it to the ground.
While the Paper House was a "concept building," says Daniel, they do hope to develop paper bales as a material for permanent construction after more research. And with any luck, the quality of their pavilion will help prove that trash not only is a feasible building material, but can also be an attractive one.