Bryan Berg

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October 2005

How did you develop your passion for stacking cards?

I was introduced by my grandfather when I was about eight. He didn’t teach me much but he certainly got me interested. I’ve always had a mind for tinkering, and cardstacking presented a welcome challenge. Cardstacking has always been a very real miniature architecture for me, requiring structural design and a triumph over certain material limitations (in this case cards). I can remember when building two or three feet tall was a big deal, and I remember a certain magic feeling as buildings got closer and closer to the ceiling. These days, I don’t get that feeling unless I’m working on a 20-foot-tall tower. All my buildings are very special to me, but these days the thrills come from improving older techniques or discovering new ones. I’m still learning a lot about what I do and what is actually possible.

Do you consider card stacking an art or a hobby?

Lots of different definitions exist for the term “art”. I guess my creations are “state-of-the-art”, at least in the little world of cardstacking. And in that sense, I’ve made an “art” of it. The very nature of cardstacking is artistic, because it requires a certain artistic and creative energy to pursue such an undertaking. Building a massive house of cards is very much like painting a picture or playing a musical instrument…it all comes out of a need for expression. I also believe that cardstacking is an ancient activity, as old as cards themselves.

We understand that you’re actually quite clumsy…

I am very clumsy. I am always dropping things, tripping on things that do not exist, and always seem to get trapped into doing simple things the hard way. When I stack cards something happens however…I suddenly have complete control and awareness of my actions, and have a logical and concise way to execute the structure at hand. I do prefer to work in short sleeves and socks…as to keep track of exactly where my body parts are. I’ve had some close calls, but never any big disasters.

What’s the largest structure you’ve built?

Tallest: 25 feet; 2000 decks; Berlin, Germany; 1999; two weeks to build; 250 pounds of cards; 27 inches square at the base.

Largest: 3000 decks in the form of Cinderella’s Castle; Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida; 2004; 24 days to build; 12 feet square; 14 feet tall.

How many decks do you get through each year?

It’s hard to say…perhaps 5500 decks a year, sometimes half as many, sometimes many more.

What’s the secret of building with cards?

I’m not sure there is a secret, but I can tell you that two things really make it all possible. Those two things are mass and repetitive geometry. The mass comes from the massive amount of cards. About seven decks make a pound. The heavier the building the more stable it is. All the weight has to held up by something, and that’s where the repetitive geometry comes in. Everything I build is based on patterns. If you could somehow cut a section through one of my structures you would see what looks like a beehive. I have found ways to take a simple set of patterns and manipulate these patterns into walls, slabs, columns, and beams. I’m also able to choose to show that structure or cover it in some way with additional layers of cards. When you look at one of my structures, some of it is exposed structure, and some of it is just a skin sitting on tiny ledges (like books on a shelf). I mentioned earlier that I am always learning as I build, and it is important to mention that I am always learning when I knock them down as well. This is because no matter how I knock them down (a leaf blower is a common tactic), I am making observations on how much abuse various portions of the structure can take before they collapse. I find that, in most cases, my structures are quite overbuilt, and this observation has given me the bravery needed to stack them into higher and more delicate creations.

Share your top tips for successful card stacking.

1) Use cards that not so glossy (maybe even business cards or recipe cards).

2) Work on the floor because a table will just wobble.

3) Don’t build with the triangle method (yes, triangles are the strongest shape, but only when you can force them to remain a triangle).

4) Build with the cards on their sides and at right angles to each other (forming little boxes).

5) Give it a chance, you didn’t learn to ride a bike in one day either.

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