Monumental Origami

Redpath Pteranodon
“Redpath Pteranodon,” a 4-meter (16′) wingspan origami Pteranodon installed at the Redpath Museum, McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Paper custom made by Papeterie St.-Armand, Montreal, Canada.

The term “Monumental” in “Monumental Origami” refers to size: this is large-scale origami, intended to make a visual impact from a distance. The uses of monumental origami are several: it can be used for decoration, for display, to make a statement about a company or product, or simply to provoke thought in the observer. One of the characteristics of origami is that it embodies a contradiction: how can such an intricate, detailed object come from a single uncut square? Monumental origami takes that contradiction and expands upon it. Conventional, bread-box-sized-or-smaller origami challenges the observer: is it possible from a single sheet? Monumental origami makes the same challenge, but adds the element of size to the mix.

singer and violinist
Singer and Violinist from an 8-piece life-size orchestra, folded for the DRUPA trade show.

I have done several monumental origami commissions in recent years. This page contains photographs from some of them. They range from a 2.5x Heron for the Masterworks of Origami exhibition at the Mingei International Museum, to a life-size orchestra for the paper company Norske Skog at the DRUPA print and paper trade show.

mingei heron
6-foot Heron folded for the Mingei Masterworks of Origami exhibition. Photo courtesy Anthony Scoggins.

In 2006, I teamed up with origami artist Linda Mihara to produce a larger-than-life-size origami representation of a famous Japanese woodcut by Hokusai in which a magician tosses into the air a sheet of paper, which turns into a crane and flies away. For this exhibition, which was installed at the Zeum children’s museum in San Francisco, I designed and folded an origami magician and a detailed origami crane, which, along with several stages of the traditional tsuru folded by Linda, were hung in the rotunda of the Zeum entry.

zeum magician and birds
“Magician Transforming Paper into a Bird,” installed at Zeum Museum, San Francisco, 2006. Magician and Flying Crane designed and folded by Robert J. Lang. Folding stages and traditional crane folded by Linda Tomoko Mihara.

Monumental origami brings its own challenges in both the composition and the realization. The physical properties of paper change nonlinearly with size, so that a fold that can be easily created in small size may be difficult or impossible at larger scale. Even if it can be folded, it may not support itself. And the range of large papers is somewhat limited, which further constrains the design. In most cases, I fold the work(s) to be displayed either on-site or nearby. Over the years, I have developed techniques for folding and rigging monumental origami for display; in most cases, hanging provides the best user experience.

On this page, you will find photographs from several recent projects. If you are interested in commissioning one or more monumental works, please contact me with your thoughts and/or requirements.

Laying out the paper for the DRUPA orchestra.
in progress
Work in progress.
A set of 5-foot fish (Koi and Garibaldi) folded for a banquet decoration in Hanford, California.