Folding Boat 28.02.12

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Two design graduates are challenging the status of the rubber dingy with a boat that can be built in two minutes from a single sheet of plastic

Recent Royal College of Art graduates Max Frommeld and Arno Mathies have come up with a boat that can be folded and unfolded from a single sheet of plastic. Five bespoke editions of their design were seen at Tom Dixon's Multiplex at the Portobello Dock during the London Design Festival.

The idea for the boat originated during a workshop at the RCA. "We were experimenting with different curve folds," Mathies says. "The physical strength that curved folding provides allowed us to think big and at a greater scale. We saw it as a challenge to take these objects to the water."

There are two versions of the Foldboat, both created from a single sheet of high-density polyethylene. The duo manipulated the material to create live hinges, enabling fold patterns that are held in place by bolt-like fixings. Boat One is designed to fold into a small parcel, for use by people who have limited storage space, while Boat Two retains the proportions of a single sheet of plastic when laid flat. "Boat Two is designed for boat renting companies or NGOs, in the case of flood hazards," says Mathies. Both designs take two minutes to assemble.

"The shape started from numerous paper models. We followed some basic rules of paper folding and once we were ready, moved to a 1:1 scale model using cardboard," says Mathies. Remarkably, only one test run was needed before the boat floated. The young designers decided to carry out this test outside the Serpentine Gallery, for convenience, and ran into a bit of trouble. No one fell overboard, but they did get a scolding from the Royal Parks police, who said that they loved the boat but the duo had to leave.

This seamless design – for leisure and emergency situations – is an upgrade from its predecessor, the rubber dingy. Its hard shell means it is impervious to sharp surfaces; the airtight pillows, which are made from water resistant material and double as a safety feature, give the user a much more comfortable and luxurious ride.

Mathies sums up the project's underlying philosophy like this: "We are interested in making functional, easy to produce, simple and usable objects, and Foldboat reflects all of these objectives. We intend to make life more enjoyable through our objects."




Sophie Borch-Jacobsen

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We saw it as a challenge to take these objects to the water

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