Origamic architecture is a form of kirigami that involves the three-dimensional reproduction of architecture and monuments, on various scales, using cut-out and folded paper, usually thin paperboard. Visually, these creations are comparable to intricate ‘pop-ups’, indeed, some works are deliberately engineered to possess ‘pop-up’-like properties. However, origamic architecture tends to be cut out of a single sheet of paper, whereas most pop-ups involve two or more. To create the three-dimensional image out of the two-dimensional surface requires skill akin to that of an architect
The development of Origamic architecture began with Professor Masahiro Chatani’s (then a newly appointed professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology) experiments with designing original and unique greeting cards. Japanese culture encourages the giving and receiving of cards for various special occasions and holidays, particularly Japanese New Year, and according to his own account, Professor Chatani personally felt that greeting cards were a significant form of connection and communication between people. He worried that in today’s fast-paced modern world, the emotional connections called up and created by the exchange of greeting cards would become scarce.
In the early 1980s, Professor Chatani began to experiment with cutting and folding paper to make unique and interesting pop-up cards. He used techniques of origami (Japanese paper folding) and kirigami (Japanese papercutting), as well as his experience in architectural design, to create intricate patterns which played with light and shadow. Many of his creations are made of stark white paper which emphasizes the shadowing effects of the cuts and folds. In the preface to one of his books, he called the shadows of the three-dimensional cutouts created a “dreamy scene” that invited the viewer into a “fantasy world.”
At first, Professor Chatani simply gave the cards to his friends and family. Over the next nearly thirty years, however, he published over fifty books on origamic architecture, many directed at children. He came to believe that origamic architecture could be a good way to teach architectural design and appreciation of architecture, as well as to inspire interest in mathematics, art, and design in young children.
Professor Chatani also spent a good deal of time, even after his retirement, traveling to exhibit his work. He frequently collaborated on books and exhibits with Keiko Nakazawa and Takaaki Kihara
Masahiro Chatani was a Japanese architect (certified, first class) and professor considered to be the creator of origamic architecture. From its development until his death in 2008, he was widely acknowledged to be the world’s foremost origamic architect.
Masahiro Chatani was born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1934. He grew up in Tokyo, and graduated from the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1956. He became an assistant professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1969 and an associated assistant professor at Washington University in 1977, and was promoted to full professorship at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1980. It was around this time that he created what is now known as “origamic architecture.” He became a professor emeritus fifteen years later, and continued to lecture at a number of institutions, including the Japan Architectural College, Hosei University, and the Shizuoka University of Art and Architecture. After his retirement from active professorship, he continued to travel around the world, giving exhibits, demonstrations, and seminars on architectural design and origamic architecture.
Professor Chatani died on November 19, 2008, at the age of 74, from complications from larynx cancer