Fort Duke Sets a Record

Fort Sets Record
The cardboard fort grows larger Friday. Photo by Megan Morr/Duke University Photography

Duke sent a large message about waste and recycling Friday, and in the process Junior Tahsin Zaman got to fulfill a childhood dream.

Throughout Friday, Duke students constructed Fort Duke, a labyrinth-like structure with a single tower that enclosed the statute of James B. Duke in front of Duke Chapel.  The fort was made with more than 3,500 cardboard boxes, breaking the world record for the largest recycled cardboard building. Naperville, Ill., held the previous record of 3,204 boxes.

Zaman, one of the hundreds of Duke students who participated, said building a giant fort was "kind of like being 10 again. As a kid, I've always wanted to make a giant castle from cardboard boxes."

Construction began at 9 a.m. and was finished around 9 p.m.  Participants worked throughout the day taping, cutting, numbering, and stacking.

One student mentioned the therapeutic effect of simply taping up one box after another. "I just came from a biology midterm, and it has been very relaxing to just build boxes and take my mind off of academics," said Junior Kenai McFadden.

Most of the boxes were collected from this year's student move-in. "We want [Fort Duke] to show the Duke community the amount of waste accumulated during move-in day every year," said Arwen Buchholz, Duke's Recycling and Waste Reduction Coordinator and one of the event organizers. "How much are we consuming? How much are we recycling or throwing away?"

The project was also part of the Duke Arts Festival, which this year had an environmental theme. 

"I think it's awesome because it's a very visible project," said Holly Hilliard of the Office of the Vice Provost of the Arts. "I hope when people see this, they will see how many boxes are actually used during move in, and how we can use boxes and other things that people often throw away to make something really cool."

Duke Sanitation and Recycling Services, Sustainable Duke and Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts collaborated on the project. Organizers included Buchholz, Bill Fick, visiting assistant professor of the practice of visual arts, and Todd Berreth, architecture instructor at Duke and lead architect of the cardboard structure.