Recreate Ancient Ruins with leftover cardboard

You’ll just need a cardboard box and a few basic tools to create these ancient architectural ruins, inspired by the wood sculpture Pompeii by artist, architect, and furniture designer Po Shun Leong. This project can serve as a launching point to design your own imaginative architectural realm from cardboard scraps!

Po Shun Leong (English, 1941–). Pompeii, 1990, cherry, buckeye wood, wenge wood, maple, glue. Gift of Jane and Arthur Mason. 1998.119.2A-C. © Po Shun Leong 1990
Photo by Mark Leong

About the artist: 

A man of many talents, Po Shun Leong creates complex wooden sculptures and boxes reimagining ancient sites like Mesa Verde, Pompeii, and Petra. He works with many different types of wood, and encourages artists to recycle their scraps into new art.  

“Be joyous, use all your … scraps, and add to the sum total of beauty in this world.” 

-Po Shun Leong 

Supplies: 

• Corrugated cardboard
• Medium- large bowl to trace
• Scissors
• Strong gluelike Elmer’s Glue-All or Alene’s Tacky Glue
• Masking tape
• Paper towel for wiping hands 

Optional:

• Ruler
• Extra cardboard (paperboard like cereal boxes, paper towel tubes, etc) 

Tips: 

• To glue cardboard, add glue then hold the pieces together and count to 20.
• Use a small piece of masking tape to temporarily hold cardboard together while glue dries.
• Wet a cardboard box and leave it outside to dry to easily separate the corrugated layer from the smooth layers. The water dissolves the glue! 

Steps:

Use the bowl to trace a circle onto a large piece of cardboard. Peel some sections of the paper covering to reveal areas of texture. Keep the bowl nearby to hold small scraps of cardboard

Cut 4 cardboard rectangles, around 6” wide by 4” high. Peel the paper from both sides of the cardboard to reveal the corrugated piece in the middle. Add glue to the short end of the rectangle and roll into a column. Repeat with the other rectangles to make 4 columns.

Measure and cut 3 triangles, about 5” wide by 2” high. Stack and glue them together to create a pediment. Do the same with 3 rectangles, about 5” wide by 1” high, to create the tablature, or base for the pediment. Cut 12 small squares, about 1” by 1”. Create 4 bases for the columns by stacking and gluing 3 squares per base. When dry, stack and glue the pediment to the tablature and the columns to the bases.

Create the corner of a building ruin by cutting 2 rectangles and cutting away sections to look like brickwork. Use the leftover right angle triangles from your pediment to make braces to hold the two walls together. Or try a different cardboard construction idea to build a wall or building.

Add details to the architectural elements using cardboard scraps. Be creative and add your unique ideas to the structures. Glue the final pieces to the base and add finishing details.

Option: For younger artists, provide cereal boxes, tubes, and lighter paperboard, which is easier for young artists to cut and manipulate. Pre-cut some basic corrugated cardboard shapes to help trigger creative thinking.

Challenge: Start with a larger base and incorporate other recyclable materials into your design.

Simplify: Don’t worry about measurements and rulers, just start cutting shapes and let the process happen organically!

Learn more: Po Shun Leong’s website is a treasure trove of interesting information!

This idea brought to you by Leslie Strauss.

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