Monday, January 20, 2014

In the Box - Out of the Box

A couple weeks ago I was challenged by a twitter exchange with Chris Wong of Flair Woodworks in which he posed the question, “What is the value of a box that doesn’t have a bottom?”  An interesting avenue to explore for sure!

I did some research on whether any value or use has ever been identified in a bottomless box and came up with only a few results.  Most findings were of boxes in which the bottom was missing, removed or destroyed.  I was able to find several engineering applications in which a chamber (box) incorporated an open bottom, usually for the purpose of modifying and/or exchanging fluids or gases…interesting!

In light of my challenge to build a box each week through 2014, I really wanted to follow this opportunity to stretch myself and take on this bottomless box question.  As I think about the boxes I’ve built, of boxes by others who have inspired me, and just the innate, raw purpose of a box…I always come back to the same thought, that boxes are designed to protect or conceal.  We usually go out of our way to box things that are important to us because we don’t want to see them damaged or stolen, or maybe to keep some very personal things private, even secret.

In considering a bottomless box it’s almost like identifying the exact opposite functionality of a box.  Without a bottom a box is incapable of carrying and protecting contents.  You could flip the box over, but then it wouldn’t be a bottomless box, and without a top it wouldn’t do a very good job of concealing.  So other than gas…why would one build a bottomless box? 

How about to fly?

Box Kites were one of the few examples I found of a bottomless box with a purpose, and its structure gave me some inspiration in how to consider my own design.

Follow me along the trail of considering that a bottomless box would serve in a manner directly contradicting the form and purpose of boxes as we understand them.  What if that was the gist of the design?  What if I have something special that I don’t want to protect and hide, but rather expose and share?

Consider this box kite inspired, bottomless box…designed to display its contents through an open front.

What purpose would it serve to create a box that can be dropped over the top of an item already in full view?  Why place an open box form over a picture selected and framed for display?

Perhaps, when you consider the motivation for placing an item inside a box, the purpose of the bottomless box becomes the emphasis on how important the contents are.  By placing the box over this picture of my family, taken when our youngest son was born, I’m communicating that this picture is so important to me that I would want to keep it secure and protected, yet I desire to share it with everyone.

One could find themselves thinking a similar away about other important objects…

A favorite item…

Maybe a box for your boxes…

A present from a foreign land…

Something natural and beautiful…

A powerful memento…

While there are few things I would tweak in making something like this again, it was really fun to break out of the box (sorry, had to do it) a bit and consider objects and purpose in a new way. 

I’ll share the construction details in a follow-up post.  Thanks for following my exploration of the bottomless box, and be sure to follow Chris on twitter (@FlairWoodworks)…who knows where that guy will lead you?!



ChrisHasFlair said...


I enjoyed reading your analysis and seeing how you use your bottomless (and frontless) box. I have a few ideas of my own, but they will have to wait...


Pete said...

Thanks Chris. I'm finding that its not to everyone's taste, but it was still fun to experiment.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete,
I like the idea and think it is a neat way of displaying an item. One thing I notice from the photo's is that whatever you have inside the BB is not highlighted and looks a bit dark. Maybe some form of lighting would help to highlight the displayed piece.