Constructing paper models is a common middle step in the design process for many makers, situated somewhere between sketching and prototyping. Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen, however, built a business around mastering that intermediary stage. Molo, their Vancouver-based design and production firm, specializes in large-scale paper products that function as furniture, lighting, and sculptural room dividers.
It’s fitting, perhaps, that the idea for this pared-down approach to design was borne out of a particularly lean time for the pair after graduating from architecture school. “When we graduated, we sold our tools to help pay off our student debt,” Forsythe explains in a video interview for Co.Design. “We were sitting in our studio with nothing but paper, and we started playing with this idea of flexibility and simple accordions, thinking if you could fold space. That started something.” Their work has since become part of MoMA’s permanent collection, and Molo’s a perennial trade-fair favorite, racking up countless awards and editors’ choice nods.
The key is in the unique honeycomb creases. Putting together each piece requires no hardware, tools, or special talents; they simply expand out to an impressive 100 times the compressed size and support an uncanny amount of weight (check out the softseating collection, which can easily withstand the heft of a group of folks sitting down to relax).
To date, Forsythe and MacAllan have focused on transforming domestic environments but have recently begun to turn their attention to temporary solutions for disaster relief. “In a city where you know that earthquakes and tsunamis are a threat, it would be really easy to store hundreds of walls or temporary living quarters,” Forsythe says. And there are, undoubtedly, myriad usages yet to be discovered and developed by the couple. “When we’re designing something, we often don’t know where it’s going to end up. It’s often just an exploration.”