boxes pack for an Opera
Stage set for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Staatsoper Hannover made of 365 cardboard boxes.

Proper transport packaging protects products from damage. This is of particular importance for expensive objects of art such as paintings or sculptures, which are shipped over long distances by sea, road or air. However, carton packaging is suited not only for the transport of artworks – it can also become art in itself.


A stage set made exclusively of shipping cartons could be seen at Staatsoper Hannover for the eight stagings in total of Manfred Trojahn’s opera “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in late 2018. A giant tower consisting of packaging cartons in various shades of brown and different formats served as a backdrop for the play based on the well-known William Shakespeare play. Stacked up to the ceiling the scenery was reminiscent of a warehouse rather than the shores of Illyria.

Just as exciting was the way this stage set was realised: the laws of physics were virtually made null and void. The carton stacks start slender at the bottom and get wider as the height of the stack increases. The use of forklift trucks and actors who jumped out of the boxes illicited plenty of positive responses among both spectators and critics. The elaborate production evidently paid off: the Hannoversche Kartonagenfabrik spent more than five weeks producing the 365 cardboard boxes in a total of 55 different formats.


Cardboard boxes are also popular as a decoration in other playhouses, at film sets or events – they are low cost and flexible to use. Be it as a catwalk or in a Biedermeier-period interior – when packaging is given a new life thanks to secondary or tertiary use this also always helps the environment.

Cardboard Cathedral: reconstruction using timber beams, containers and 96 cardboard tubes: Photo: mrpbps, www.flickr.com


It is not just the artist couple Christo and Jeanne-Claude who rose to global fame with numerous major projects involving all types of packaging materials. The idea of architect Shigeru Ban also caused a stir. Unlike with Christo and Jeanne-Claude, his work focuses on the conservation and reconstruction of specific buildings. After an earthquake in 2011 the Japanese architect rebuilt the cathedral in the New Zealand city of Christchurch using 96 cardboard tubes among other construction materials. This means it is the only cathedral worldwide consisting of cardboard.


The added value packaging can have is also evidenced by the use of cardboard materials in disaster regions: in regions hit by hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and other natural disasters makeshift housing for the homeless needs be erected – above all quickly but also easily and at affordable prices. This is why relief agencies on site often use rigid packaging materials as complementary construction material for the temporary restoration of buildings – such as specially engineered cardboard tubes.