Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


A Conceptual and Linguistic Framework for the understanding of Modular Origami

Modular origami is a complex thing. In order to be able to think, talk and write about it in a meaningful way, I have both developed a set of concepts and invented phrases. and occasionally words, to try to describe its complexity. These ideas, and this language, are both summarised on this page. There are links to more detailed information on each topic if you are interested.

  • A definition of modular origami and macromodular origami and some notes on the meaning of the words in the definitions can be on the Definitions and Notes page.

Concepts relating to modular origami assemblies

  • A modular form is a flat shape or three-dimensional structure that can be produced by combining two or more self-integrating folded paper modules. A Classification of Modular Forms offers an analysis of some of the many types of form that modular origami can produce.

  • An assembly system is the way in which the modules self-integrate with each other to create the modular form. Assembly systems are discussed in Modular Assembly Systems.

  • The way in which the surface of the form is made up of, or broken down into, individual modules can be called the modular method. For a more detailed explanation see Modular Method and Method Analogues.

  • Similarly, the way in which the visible surface of the form is divided into visually distinct regions can be called the modular pattern. This is intimately connected to modular method but it is not quite the same thing. For a full explanation see Modular Pattern.

Much of the complexity of modular origami arises because any given modular form may be able to be achieved in several (sometimes many) different ways by combining modules of differing designs and surface patterns in differing numbers using different assembly systems.

Concepts relating to individual modules

The fundamental characteristics of a module are about the way it holds together with other modules. Modules tend to fall into broad families that hold together in the same way. An introduction to the most usually met modular families can be found on the page Modules and Modular Families.

  • The folding method is the way in which the module is created from the starting shape (ie the unfolded sheet of paper). It is often possible to create modules with the same fundamental characteristics using several different folding methods, or by beginning with a variety of different folding shapes. The nature of folding geometries is discussed in Folding Geometries and Angular Systems and the properties of some useful rectangles in Useful Rectangles.

  • Quite frequently the folding method can be varied to alter the modular pattern without altering the fundamental characteristics of the module.

  • Many basic modules are flat shapes that can be configured by the addition of extra folds to increase, sometimes vastly, the range of forms that the module will make without changing the fundamental characteristics of the module. More subtly, a module may be reconfigured by simply widening or closing the angles between the various sections of the module without the addition of extra creases.