Marble is having (another) design moment, both as a building material and in trompe-l’oeil form, with printed images of the imposing age-old stone being used to add witty gravitas to lightweight textiles in fashion and home design (including accessories from poufs to throw pillows). And now here comes an even grander-scale homage to marble in the form of a playfully designed little shack in Gothenburg, Sweden, whose facade is covered in glossy black-and-white marbled corrugated paper not even an inch thick.
Based on the proportions of a Swedish friggebod, a tiny shed that requires no planning permission to build, the Chameleon Cabin was designed by architect Mattias Lind at White arkitekter for printing company Göteborgstryckeriet (in collaboration with brand agency Happy F + B).
Lind told me by phone that the printing company asked him to come up with a project that would showcase the possibilities of the printing process. “The fundamental idea was to see what a printing company can do,” Lind said. “Can we build a house with our machines and our materials?”
The architect answered with a resounding yes in the form of 95 modules made of extra-stiff Miniwell corrugated paper that fit together to form a 75-square-foot, nearly 10-foot-high, 220-pound “house” with a gabled roof. The flexible structure can be extended if desired by several hundred feet. Photoshopped images of marble were used to create a white Italian Carrara marble pattern on one side of the house’s accordion-like folds and black marble on the other.
“We asked ourselves if we could use their knowledge and printing capacity to make it look like anything we want,” Lind said, rejecting the idea of metal and deciding that wood would be too literal as it’s already a source material for paper. “Marble is the ultimate material for an architect; 2,000 to 3,000 years ago in Athens and Rome it was the only material to use to build something great. So the idea of connecting the ultimate material with a paper structure, well, it was a great idea to see if it was possible.”
While he said that the building is stable once the modules are slotted together, it’s obviously more of an exercise in style than a viable housing option, given that it would not stand up to rain or other elements. The Chameleon Cabin, named as such because its bicolored folds make it appear either black or white depending on the angle, is currently used at trade fairs and other promotional events.
But it's easy to imagine it functioning indoors, in the middle of a vast open-plan office or loft, where it could be used as a conference room or a home office or a playroom or a love nest or a yoga studio.
Lind had another idea: “Now I want to really build it in marble,” he said with a laugh. “Maybe I could put it in a graveyard like a mausoleum where I could stay for the rest of my afterlife.”