Skeleton-inspired Architecture Models

Mher Zorhabyan creates architectural models inspired by the skeletal structure of animals. You can do it too! Skeletons are strong beautiful structures that can hold up an animal's body or the roof of a building. Architects get inspired by human skeletons, snake skeletons, even the exoskeletons of centipedes and beetles. Using the intricacy of papery materials, Mher creates models that are structured and sturdy while showcasing curves and flexibility reminiscent of anatomical spines and rib lines. In this activity guide, we’re going to explore ways to cut and combine paper and cardboard to make it bend and take 3-dimensional forms for architectural models.

STEP 1 - Gather Your Materials

Tools:

  • Stapler (we recommend a heavy-duty one)
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Hot glue
  • Glue sticks
  • Markers
  • Optional: Hot glue! However, very helpful.

Making Materials:

  • Cardboard 
  • Paper
  • Colored paper scraps

 

STEP 2 - Gather images for reference and inspiration.

I found some pictures of skeletal structures in science books from the library. You can also find them online, like at DK Find Out. Look at the lines and shapes in the images you find or Mher's illustrations above. What do you notice about the lines? The spaces between bones in skeletal structures? How do the shapes of the bones add to the strength of the skeleton? How do the bones fit together?

STEP 3 - Explore How Paper Feels and Bends

This exploration will be similar to the process we tried in our Make Paper Sculptures activity guide. Play with the texture of your paper and the cardboard. Investigate the cardboard and the direction of the corrugation. Try the methods below or explore on your own.

Check out how these Skeletal Structures bend and move.

Paper Strips

Cut paper into strips and connect them on one vertical strip. What does this structure look like to you? If you curl the edges of your paper up, it adds volume to its shape and makes it look more like a ribcage.

Cardboard Spine

Draw a vertical strip down the middle of a piece of cardboard perpendicular to the corrugation of your cardboard. Perpendicular means it’s at a 90-degree angle to the line of your corrugation since the corrugation is what makes cardboard fold more easily. Make flanges on the outer sides of your middle strip and cut them into flanges! Check out how the cardboard bends and twists after that. Try this in various sizes or thicknesses of cardboard and see how the motion and shape change.

Boxes on a Strip

Cut thick strips and bend them into boxes. Staple them onto another thin strip of cardboard. How does this motion or structure differ from the other ones? What does this strip remind you of?

Download Mher's Template for the Original Bio Bridge

STEP 4 - Turn Your Explorations into Architectural Models

Look at the structures you’ve made. Where do you see them being useful as structures? See how we adapted our examples into models for functional architectural structure. Use colored papers, a cardboard base, and markers to create other parts of your models, making living characters (people or animals) for scale and to show what their purpose could be. 

The cardboard spine structure reminded me of a bridge, so I used this design to create a bridge that goes over a river cross. This bridge could be used by humans hiking in the mountains so they can get from one side to the other without disturbing the life in the river.

The ribcage structure reminds me of some of the cool public art we see at parks, that give people breaks from the sun by providing shade! I designed a park using this structure, so people could use the shade as a spot to rest and not overheat while being outside.

ADULT HELPERS

Using hot glue is optional. There are many other adhesives young makers can use that won't require power. For any tips on how to use specific tools safely, visit our Youtube library for Tiny Techniques.

RESOURCES

Visit the Techniques tab in reDiscover Center's Pedagogy Resources to access our Tiny Techniques videos and get tips for working safely and efficiently with tools.

Once you have finished your architectural models, share your idea with friends and family. If you want to share a picture on social media, make sure to tag @reDiscoverCtr. We wanna hear all about it!

Since 2023, reDiscover has partnered with the Santa Monica Boys & Girls Club to create a library of home-based activity guides inspired by art created by local cultural practitioners. This project is made possible with support from the California Arts Council.

About Mher Zohrabyan

Born in Armenia, Mher relocated to the United States at the age of 15 and started attending the Main Branch of Santa Monica Boys and Girls Club shortly thereafter. After graduating high school, he joined the Boys and Girls Club team as a youth development professional. He facilitates Fine Arts and Stop Motion Animation programs and coaches the volleyball team. Simultaneously, he studies architecture at Santa Monica College. Mher is a self-taught artist, with the occasional figure drawing class to supplement his skills. When ideating concepts for architectural models, he starts by gathering reference images and creating mood boards. Mher work is inspired by the human form and nature. You can see more of his artistic explorations on his Instagram page @zohrabyvn.

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