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Bristol Sustainability Pop-up Book

An installation exploring architecture through the use of a hand crafted pop-up book.

After the great success of my first design showcased in @Bristol (now called We The Curious), I was asked to make an installation for an event. This would be using pop-ups but otherwise, I had the freedom to create anything I wanted within the deadline as long as it was educational and Bristol-centric. 

I decided to focus on exploring the history of Bristol's architecture and the things that affect it, this pop-up book would consist of examples of buildings through different time periods. The pages would be created with accuracy to the terrain using cut paper (nothing printed) around the building and the pop-up to scale and in the same style. Bristol had been recognised by the European Commission as the most sustainable city in the continent during that year so exploring this evolution through architecture would be significant. 

The pages themselves would consist of three bespoke pop-ups ranging in complexity. The book itself will be secured on a plinth that needs to be designed specially so that users can press a button and see the pages turn to that section. This also stopped users from moving the pages and potentially breaking the bespoke pop-ups.


Other than the plinth and book, the rest of the installation was pretty easy to set up. This is in part due to my previous experience designing and building Installations from scratch as an artist before I decided to focus on the practical aspects of design. In the end, the information and map of Bristol were simplified so that it was not a distraction from the interactive content on display, although the map was still needed to help to ground the pop-ups in reality and show where their real-world counterparts could be found.

Page one - Castlemeeds tower

All the pop-ups are surrounded by a scaled version of the actual landscapes cut out in various coloured paper. Castlemeeds is in the city centre and that is clear to see from the amount of grey surrounding it, this was a challenge to get it to look right whilst also making it aesthetically pleasing. The structure itself was quite simple with some 3D details that popped out of the top of it.

Page two - Kingsweston house

This building had a lot of detail in it that I could capture through folds in the paper. This building didn't need a roof thanks to these complexities providing an interesting internal structure. However, adding the windows and other 2D features took a long time due to the Georgian architecture.

Page three - Eco Bungalow

This was the more difficult of the two pages due to the bent road that the building followed. After all my research I could not find any pop-up method that could create a bend through a 3D structure so I had to create one from scratch. In the end, the solution was to attach the corners of the building to the corners of the page with string and then pull the middle of the structure out with the other page as it moved open. Although creating this design was difficult, it did become the most satisfying part of the project for me.

Page turning mechanism

This aspect of the project ran into a lot of issues. The original plan was to have each page driven by a belt connected to a motor, you can see the attachment in the spine for this in the photo above. Lots of work went into the electronics and the coding with the movement designed to be controlled by buttons that people could push.

However, the timing belts kept slipping off the motors and with little time left until the event, this aspect of the project had to be scrapped. Instead, wooden rods were used and screwed onto the belts. When these rotated, the pages moved. Handels were created and instructions were provided underneath so that people were still able to operate it easily without risking damage to the pop-ups. Despite the rush to think on my feet and change the plan last minute to save the show, the exhibition organiser was still happy with the final result given the quality of the presentation. In the end, it came together as a cohesive experience and became a point of interest during the days of the event.

I did try again to create a page turning mechanism a few years after this, you can check out that project here.

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