Imagine a giant origami sculpture made of wood and you start to understand Ghostcubes. A series of interconnected wooden cubes that can be manipulated into an assortment of shapes and configurations, Ghostcubes are the invention of Erik Åberg, a Stockholm-based designer, juggler, woodworker, and magician. In one deft, fluid motion a Ghostcube can be folded, unfurled, and refolded to make a vast spectrum of ellipsoids and polyhedra.
While Åberg is a sculptor and a woodworker, it was the art of juggling that primarily informed the design of his Ghostcubes. “My specialty has always been balancing, rolling, and manipulating balls using my head and hands,” Åberg says. Ghostcubes are Transformer-like sculptures that he developed as a way to distinguish his juggling act.
Åberg was inspired by the work of a German origami artist named Heinz Strobl and he built his first Ghostcube after attempting one of Strobl’s paper models using wood instead and at a much larger scale. Although Strobl had previously made interlocking paper cubes similar to the Ghostcube, Åberg’s major addition was a hole in the center of each block. That design element not only gives the unfolding Ghostcube the ethereal panache of a magic trick in action, but also allows Åberg to glide one or more balls across its surface.
A lot of work goes into making each Ghostcube: largely because of the precise and fluid way it needs to be folded, a single Ghostcube can take as long as a month to construct. When Åberg designs a new one, he does so with pen and paper, then builds it out of wood in a workshop next to his studio. He plays with the prototype and if he likes how it feels, makes refinements and modifies from there. “I’m not a very scientific guy,” he admits. “I work hands-on, with objects and tools. Most of the work is intuitive. It’s just as much a physical process as intellectual.”
While the Ghostcubes have garnered interest online, he currently has no intention of selling them. “They take a long time to make, so they would probably end up being very expensive,” says Åberg. “Anyway, it is more interesting for me to build new things: I don’t want to have to make the same old thing over and over again.” That’s not to say that Åberg’s not interested in making some money off of the Ghostcube phenomenon, though. He’s selling a 23-minute documentary about Ghostcubes on his official website for around $14 each.
Personally, I hope Åberg teams up with another Swedish company known for its work in wood design, Ikea. Imagine if, like Ghostcubes, Expedits unfolded like origami into any configuration your mind could imagine.