How to build skyscrapers out of cardboard

Updated August 10, 2017

Whether you're building a model skyscraper for a school project, to accompany a model railroad or simply as a creative way to pass the time, using cardboard lets you put your model together quickly, easily and inexpensively. With a few simple tools and materials, you can create a complete city street lined with accurate and imposing skyscraper models.

Decide on a scale. The scale of your model determines the size of the pieces of cardboard you'll need, as well as the sizes of features like windows and doors.

Draw a plan of your skyscraper. Position windows, doors, ledges and other architectural detail.

Collect cardboard for your model. You can obtain cardboard boxes free from many businesses or offices. Look for boxes without wrinkles or folds in their sides; these will make the best building materials.

Draw the outline of your skyscraper onto the cardboard using a ruler, with your plan as a guide. Make your marks on the side you intend to use as the inside, so that they won't be visible when the model is finished.

Cut out the outlines of your walls using a craft knife. Leave a small area of cardboard projecting beyond one edge of each wall. Score this with your craft knife so that it folds easily. You will use this to glue the walls together.

Cut out windows and doors using a craft knife. Doing this will be much harder once you've assembled your walls, so make sure that you're happy with the placement of these features before you proceed.

Spread a thin layer of glue along the projecting cardboard tabs. Glue the walls together. Cut triangles of cardboard and glue them into the corners to help them maintain their shape. One set of these supports should go near the upper edges of the walls. You will have to hold your model together with masking tape while the glue dries.

Cut out your roof and place it at the top of the skyscraper, resting it on the supports so that the walls form a lip around the edge of the roof.

Add small details to the exterior of your model. Cut out steps leading to the front door, ledges above or under windows, or cornices for the roof and corners.


Be careful when using a craft knife. Don't cut directly on a kitchen table, and be sure to make all cuts away from you.

Things You'll Need

  • Cardboard
  • Ruler
  • Craft knife
  • Glue
  • Masking tape
  • Thin card
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About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.