Student reaches for the sky with cardboard installation

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Each piece of cardboard that makes up the installation “Cardboard Sky” has been hand-selected and cut into a specific shape by architecture junior Daniel Morrison, assembled by him and a group of his friends into what appears to be a giant puzzle.

“It’s a big net, basically,” Morrison said. “It’s born out of an interest in modularity, having the same piece but with different colors and textures, making something very spatial and experimental.“

Morrison has been commissioned by Art Alliance Austin to create a large-scale installation for Art City Austin, a citywide celebration from April 24 to 25. Morrison’s installation is constructed from thousands of small pieces of cardboard and will be attached to Austin City Hall, marking the boundary of the Art City Austin event in the heart of the Downtown district.

Morrison’s coursework in architecture at UT has helped prepare him for the technical and logistical challenges of “Cardboard Sky.” In fact, Morrison was encouraged to submit a proposal for Art Alliance Austin for extra credit by his Design V studio professor, Jack Sanders, who holds a master’s degree in architecture from UT.

According to Sanders, his goal in encouraging students to submit proposals to Art Alliance Austin was “to get the students in over their heads and then demonstrate to the student and everybody else that, when given the opportunity, they can make something happen. Or better, make something wonderful happen.”

Morrison relied on dumpster-diving to collect the material for his installation, sifting through trash to find discarded cardboard boxes.

“I sort of started hanging out at a lot of liquor stores,” Morrison said, laughing. “Well, not hanging out, but I kind of got chummy with the guys there because they would see me every week picking boxes, breaking them down, and then I would take them to the shop that I’m working in and press each of these little pieces out
individually.”

To bring his design to life, Morrison used a variety of techniques and equipment from X-ACTO blades to laser cutters and even old industrial machinery in order to shape each piece of cardboard to match his vision.

“As a student, I’ve really always been interested in trying to reconcile digital and traditional handcraft,” Morrison said. “With this project, I’ve sort of been all over technology-wise, from analog to digital to back to old industrial.”

As both an artist and aspiring architect, Morrison has formed his own opinion on the connection between art and architecture, an oft-debated subject.

“A lot of people like to say that architecture is inhabitable art, but I don’t even necessarily like that statement,” Morrison said. “I do really like public art projects like this because the cost of patronage is effectively zero, since you don’t really have to buy anything. It’s very egalitarian. I really appreciate that about this project and most works of architecture.”

With so much to do in order to get ready for the unveiling of his design at Art City Austin, Morrison has become something of a workaholic, although he still finds time to relax by cooking.

“I’m a big baker. That’s how I sort of find peace, by making pie,” Morrison said.

Daniel has achieved a lot in his short time at UT, and upon graduation, he plans to attend graduating school.

According to Morrison’s former professor Sanders, “Daniel seems to understand that good design is about more than just looking cool and slick — but that it has to have a heartbeat, and at the end of the day, has to, as somebody else said, ‘lift the spirit.’”