Have you ever considered eating at a cardboard cafe? You won’t have to go very far now to enjoy an environmentally-friendly restaurant—if you live in India, that is. Located in Mumbai, India, the cafe is entirely constructed from cardboard— from the walls, chairs, tables, and more. Are you ready to book your visit?
The restaurant, Cardboard Café, is a one-of-a-kind restaurant that’s completely vegan and gluten-free. While there are other restaurants that are committed to offering gluten-free and vegan options, this cafe (which opened in April 2019) wants to help the environment in every way possible. This includes designing the 40,000 square foot restaurant entirely from cardboard.
Imagine walking into the café and seeing cardboard walls, tables, chairs, light fixtures, menu holders, and more. The only area of the café that isn’t made of cardboard is the kitchen—because fire and cardboard don’t work well together. The café, designed by Nuru Karim, took seven months to design, three months to plan, and four months to build.
How It Was Built
Karim, a member of the Indian architecture studio Nudes, built the café to prove a cardboard structure has just as much versatility as other buildings. The curving and fluted shapes of the cardboard furnishings were formed by multiple layers of cardboard precision, which were cut to produce the desired shape. Then, tables and children’s highchairs were made from cardboard elements slotted together.
Karim personally selected each cardboard piece, choosing elements that were recyclable and contained biodegradable properties. He tested the cardboard’s durability, moisture resistance, temperature adaptation, and flexibility. He determined his pieces were perfect for the café. “Building with cardboard meant constant exploration and inquiry into material performance,” said Karim. “We are hoping that this space evolves into a vibrant hub for dialogue and conversation on the role of design, material, and technology in protecting the earth’s resources towards a sustainable future.”
Of course, not everything was easy. Karim quickly learned he had to treat some cardboard pieces differently. For example, he treated the tabletops with wax so they would be resistant against spills and stains (common in restaurants). Karim solved any problems, always keeping in mind his vision for the café. He commented, “We wanted to advocate for issues, such as climate change, global warming, and sustainability.” It’s that simple.
Since the café opened in April 2019, Cardboard Café has gained international fame. Karim and his team at Nudes are inspiring other business owners to experiment with cardboard. For example, the California-based architecture firm Brooks + Scarpa designed its walls of the Aesop’s Los Angeles store with recycled cardboard tubes.
In addition, a design collective in Amsterdam, called Fission Factory, devised a modular housing system that implements interlocking pieces of cardboard to build a house frame. These structures can be built in less than 24 hours. Finally, Japan-based architect Shigeru Ban used cardboard to create an entire cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, as well as a cabin for hikers and a pavilion at the IE School of Architecture and Design in Madrid. Karim is confident more and more architects are going to use cardboard for designing structures.
What Others Are Saying
It didn’t take long for the world to recognize the Cardboard Café. Now a viral story, people are amazed that the café is made from cardboard—even the menu holders! Twitter users shared their opinions on the café. User Kate O’Neill (@kateo) commented after visiting the café, “It made an already-great get-together that much cooler.” Another user (@thenamesnotnya) said, “I need the cardboard café to put inside my café.”
It looks like the Cardboard Café is a success for many café-enthusiasts. It might seem unusual to sit on a cardboard box while drinking coffee, but remember that you’re helping save the planet, which is so much more important than a cup of coffee.
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