Build a Giant Fort with Cardboard Boxes

Duke hopes to break world record on Sept. 20

"Fort Duke" will be created from about 3,500 cardboard boxes collected during student move-in, like this giant pile of boxes saved outside Bell Tower on East Campus. Photo by Bryan Roth.

While construction crews are busy renovating spaces across Duke, students and employees will get to build something of their own Sept. 20.

The Duke Arts Festival, Sustainable Duke and Duke Sanitation and Recycling Services will welcome members from the Duke community in an attempt to set a new world record and build the largest recycled cardboard building on West Campus Quad. The project runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and needs volunteers to help build the structure. Volunteers can participate for however long they like and can sign up online. No building experience is necessary.

In order to set a new record, Duke will try to use 3,500 cardboard boxes collected from student move-in and academic buildings across campus. The project is appropriately being called "Fort Duke."

"This event is a creative way to showcase how much recycling we can collect and use in a fun way," said Arwen Buchholz, Duke's recycling and waste reduction coordinator. "It's a cool way to reuse all these boxes that come onto campus every year and kick-off the Duke Arts Festival, which has a theme of sustainability this year."

After the fort is built, the cardboard will be recycled.

Todd Berreth, a researcher and instructor in the Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies, is leading the design of the fort. Berreth, who has background as an architect, said the key to building the cardboard fort will be the center of the structure, which will stand about 24 feet high around the James B. Duke statue on the West Campus Quad. Other walls of the fort will be up to 10 feet tall, and the building will take up about 360 square feet.

Berreth said building the fort's tower-like middle will be similar to a barn raising. Volunteers will stable and tape cardboard boxes together on the ground, then raise them to stand up straight. From the center of the fort, a labyrinth will be created which will lead to the central tower, culminating at the statue. Staples and packing tape will hold everything together.

"The James Duke statue is at the core of West Campus and there's something compelling about doing this activity in the heart of our community as a way to build our community," Berreth said.

To help navigate the building process, student volunteers from engineering and visual studies programs will act as leaders to guide other volunteers during construction. Stephanie Fiddy, a sophomore who hopes to work in architecture, said she's volunteering to get hands-on work building something with her classmates.

"I'm very excited at the novelty of it, but that it's also a visual representation of our sustainability efforts at Duke," Fiddy said. "It's important to make the campus aware of our efforts, and I hope this is one of many things to highlight sustainability."

Artist rendering of Fort Duke: