2018 London Design Awards

spaces, objects, visual, graphic, digital & experience design, design champion, best studio & best start-up, plus over 40 specialist categories

accelerate transformation, celebrate courage, growing demand for design

Image Credit : Guy Archard


Project Overview

Beyond Surface is a gravity-defying origami installation designed by harnessing the strength and beauty of G. F Smith's paper, Takeo Tela. To understand the strength of Takeo Tela, the design team initiated a series of tests that led to the development of three discrete joinery methods and a Sonobe origami structure made from 5,500 interlocking papers suspended from 16 vertical supports. Radiating outward from each vertical support, the three joinery methods interweave into one another to form a series of catenary-like surfaces with a 3.5m x 3.5m unencumbered, light filled space below. Within this space, the public experiences the sensual qualities of Takeo Tela, as lights from above transmit through its various layers and reveal an assortment of colors and shadows. Tensile, dynamic, anisotropic and translucent, this installation redefines the way we experience and understand G. F Smith's Takeo Tela paper.

Project Commissioner

G. F Smith

Project Creator

Office for Design Evolution


Design: Office for Design Evolution
Structural Engineer: Web Structures

Project Brief

G. F Smith is one of the largest paper manufacturers in the world. With most of their clientele focused on using paper for stationary purposes—envelopes, letter heads, gift wrapping, and name cards—G. F Smith's objective was to commission an exhibition that challenged pre-conceived ideas of how their products could be used. To uncover the potential of their brand, G. F Smith required the design team to reveal the strength of a single type of Takeo paper, one of their newest lines of merchandise. Through the understanding of their merchandise, G. F Smith sought a unique experience for their clientele and for passersby who visited their Show Space during the 2018 London Craft Week. With these requirements, the entire team decided to launch, Beyond Surface, a floating origami installation that would express the strength and beauty of paper.

In preparation for London Craft Week, the design team had two months to demonstrate the strength of Takeo's paper. With fixed time constraints, the design team was required to proceed with a variety of tests, discrete joinery methods and full scale prototypes.

Furthermore, to meet G. F Smith's sustainability requirements, the design team had to execute the entire project in an eco-friendly manner. Aimed at a low carbon footprint and reducing waste, the entire installation was required to be assembled in the United Kingdom. With the assistance of G. F Smith's experts, the team minimized their impact on the environment while creating a unique experience for their visitors.

Project Innovation/Need

Beyond Surface fuses origami with the concept of wood joinery to express the intrinsic properties—tensile strength, folding endurance, friction—of Takeo Tela paper. In order to express these properties, three different bespoke joinery methods were developed by the design team. The first method was developed so that three papers would be able to withstand the most stress and carry the weight of a single module (around 611 papers). The second was designed to withstand half a module. The third was designed to express the frictional characteristics of the paper by allowing it to slide to a certain distance without failing. Altogether, these three discrete joinery methods resulted in an installation that changes shape over time while showing the strength, endurance and beauty of paper.

Design Challenge

The design and construction of a floating installation that responds to gravity autonomously required a deep understanding of Takeo Tela's properties and the development of three discrete joinery methods. With no information about Takeo Tela's physical or mechanical properties available online, in books or from the suppliers, the designers could not proceed with computer analysis to determine if this type of paper would be able to support the entire weight of the installation. Instead, they had to start by physically testing and examining the paper. Initially, two tests—a folding endurance and a stress test—were performed. The folding endurance test consisted of creasing each paper along the same line multiple times to find out if any cracks were visible and if it would weaken the paper. Then, weights were hung from each side of the paper to determine its tensile strength. From that point on, a full scale prototype was constructed out of 600 units of origami to determine an appropriate joinery method. Each corner of the prototype was replaced with 20 units of the new joinery method. Each joinery method was tested and observed for a few days and if any tears or weaknesses were noticeable, then that particular joinery method was discarded and the entire process began again. This process was repeated over a two month period, until weaknesses were no longer evident.


In an effort to reduce our carbon footprint and build sustainably, the entire life cycle of our installation was carefully planned and executed. In the beginning, the design and prototyping was done in-house by the team in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Then, once the prototype was in working condition, the process of making was taught to a team of experts at G. F Smith through online video conferences and tutorials. With the assistance of G. F Smith, a team of specialists folded 5,500 papers in their factory located in Hull and delivered the units of origami to the site in London. From that point on, the origami papers were assembled by a team of university students. After nine days, the installation was lifted into place and exhibited for a total of four months.

After the exhibition was completed, the team decided that the Takeo Tela papers would be given to G. F Smith's patrons and be reused as something of their choice. Each patron of G. F Smith has the opportunity to create something of their own with the recycled units of origami. In addition to the reused origami, the frame at the ceiling will also be reused for future G. F Smith projects. Altogether, the careful planning of Beyond Surface resulted in a low carbon footprint, reduction of waste and sustainable life cycle.

This award celebrates innovative and creative design for a temporary building or interior, exhibition, pop up site, installation, fixture or interactive element. Consideration given to materials, finishes, signage and experience.
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