Thin cardboard walls to build the cities of the future

Cardboard walls and lamps: 25 works signed by major Italian architects and designers, exhibited in the wide industrial spaces of the former Manifattura Tabacchi factory of Lucca.

Lucia Maffei

An antique Italian city: Lucca. An unusual lieu of industrial archeology located in the very heart of the city: the former Tobacco Manufacturing Facilities called the “Manifattura Tabacchi”. Something that is a veritable symbol of re-usable material: cardboard.

From this interesting mix of unusual ingredients the exhibition “Città Sottili” (Thin Cities) was born. The certainly fascinating result deserves attention and respect for the mastery with which spaces that are apparently very different one from the other have been made homogeneous. The architectural and artistic “recycling” of a so-called “poor” material like cardboard has proposed not only “abstract” artworks, but has also created futuristic building solutions and surprisingly fascinating objects of everyday use.

THE CARDBOARD “WALLS” AND “LAMPS”, 25 WORKS SIGNED BY MAJOR ITALIAN ARTISTS, ARCHITECTS AND DESIGNERS, exhibited in the large rooms of the former Manifattura Tabacchi of Lucca, have also given new life and new roles to a historical place. The imposing industrial citadel, which was inaccessible up until a short time ago, represented for over a century the pulsating heart of the economy of Lucca, the place where the unmistakable, hand-made Tuscan Cigar was born.

The exhibition also constituted the perfect occasion to open the doors of the former factory to visitors for the very first time.

THE “CITTÀ SOTTILI” EVENT HAS FOUND IN CARDBOARD ITS CENTRAL THEME, connecting it to the concept of urban space, probing the possible ways that it can be used within the concept of the design of temporary architectural elements, and also experimenting the application potential of industrial design. Thin, temporary, lightweight: cardboard allows to create low-cost, reversible and recyclable structures that do not alter fixed scenarios, while at the same time proposing continuous updating. This material has always attracted the interest of many people from the point of view of design because it is very malleable, with many characteristics yet to be discovered and great potential yet to be explored in terms of types of products possible, as well as for certain physical properties that make it similar to wood. Even though today paper and cardboard are present in construction (in limited fields, however), their light weight, contained costs, versatility and environmental compatibility constitute very attractive elements that arouse growing interest on the part of designers and builders in experimenting with these products.

IN THIS NEW EXHIBITION, THE CREATIVE EXPERIENCE PROJECTED TOWARDS THE FUTURE RESULTS IN A DIFFERENT CITY, a city in which, as Italo Calvino wrote in his book Città Invisibili (Invisible Cities), “You do not enjoy the seven or seventy-seven wonders, but the answer it gives to one of your questions.”

The “Città Sottili” exhibition certainly offers some possible answers for the city of tomorrow, a city freely and poetically designed, thanks to the re-usable material that has found its perfect expression in the city of today, taking place in a lieu that has also been re-used in terms of space and function, from factory to museum. •

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