20 December 2016

Interview with Otto van de Steene
and Thomas Weyn: Onak

Text: Johanna Christner

The Asian art of origami is a method of folding paper, usually a single square sheet, to create two- or three-dimensional objects like animals or geometric solids. According to the Japanese legend of Senbazuru, anyone who folds 1,000 origami cranes is granted a wish. Folded paper cranes have therefore become a popular gift on festive occasions, such as weddings or the birth of a child. Although originally practiced only by monks making ritual offerings to the gods, origami has since advanced from a tradition to an art form, whose specific aesthetic and function have also entered the design world.



Canoeing and life in the city – two things that are not normally easy to combine. Determined not to forego either, however, designers Otto van de Steene and Thomas Weyn developed a special canoe called Onak. We talked to the designer duo about their idea and the design process.


How did this special origami form come about?


It started with our search for a canoe that would be easy to transport, which we were unable to find. Inspired by existing boats and kayaks based on the origami principle, we then set about designing an origami canoe of our own.



What makes the design so resilient?


We realised that conventional materials would not deliver the kind of sturdiness and durability that we needed. This led us to develop a material of our own based on expanded polypropylene. The end result is erosion-resistant and 15 times more robust.




Tell us about the “sea trials”.


We paddled all over Europe with Onak, and not just through cities but in the wild as well. We put it in the path of fierce winds, repeatedly bumped it against stony riverbanks and even took it through thin ice.



What are the advantages of your material Honeycomb-Curv?


Aside from being extremely tough and fully recyclable, it allowed us to design a stiff canoe almost entirely in one piece. Moreover, the air cells integrated into Honeycomb-Curv give it so much additional buoyancy that it even stays afloat when water enters the canoe.




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