softwall, a simple solution to complex living
The answer was softwall; a lightweight fold out paper wall to be used in open plan houses (work places, exhibits and other venues). "We started out with small models using paper, as you often do working with models", explains Todd MacAllen. “We liked the idea that people themselves can manipulate the space where they live and work. In the beginning we did not see that the final product itself would be made out of paper, though we considered paper an interesting material.”
The folding idea from an accordion
Todd and his creative partner Stephanie soon realized that they were working with a solution in paper and that a paper wall needed a certain weight and size to have sufficient friction against the floor in order to stay in a specific position. They also found that the structural principle of honeycomb would provide rigidity in the folding wall. The folding idea they already knew from the accordion, from the ramp to the airplane and from paper decorations.
“We experimented with different sizes of the wall and began to cooperate with a very old firm that makes paper for decoration", says Todd MacAllen. “It was a long process of maybe one and a half year(s) because their machines did not fit our wall sizes and we had to adapt our ideas to the possibilities of the machines because we did not have the money to build new machines. There was a lot of back and forth before we were able to actually produce a softwall that we were satisfied with. During this time we made many changes to the size of the honeycomb structure and added layers.”
New material added
Further development of softwall took place in the designer’s company molo that they formed especially to get the opportunity to work with these kinds of design processes. It has been under tough conditions and for most of the company’s existence they have worked without salary. The INDEX: award of 100,000 € (BODY category) was a boost for the development in terms of getting deeper into the research of using other or supplemental materials in order to make other types of softwall with varied characteristics.
“We have made a softwall with polyethylene, now being produced and sold – it is water and tear resistant. More recently we are close to making a softwall with glass fibre reinforced paper which makes the wall much stronger and fire resistant, while still being the same light and easily to manipulate folding wall. We expect to be working on different variations of materials and products for many years to come.”
“The biggest moment in design is when the things you have designed actually go into production", says Todd MacAllen, “but the process can be long and even longer when you pursue a simple design and a simple solution. In our case it has been a long and at times complicated process to create the simplicity and pureness of softwall.”
Facts about softwall:
At 1.8 m tall, above normal sight lines, the softwall can be used to literally transform a space by creating a dynamic partition, or sculptural backdrop. The wall is 30 cm wide, and can be expanded from a mere 3 cm to over 7.5 m. It weighs only 7.7 kg. For easy storage softwall can be compressed into a compact form of 1m by 30 cm by 10cm.
The paper softwall can be arranged into almost any shape, or easily compressed into a compact sheaf and stored away. softwall dampens sound and can both absorb and transmit light. The paper softwall is made from 400 layers of honeycombed translucent white, fire-retardant paper, bounded by natural wool felt ends. The thick felt ends fold to create handles when the wall is open, and form a casing for the softwall when it is compressed. softwall is modular, as the felt ends, with velcro fasteners can also be used to link walls together. softwall is 100% recyclable.