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Humanitarian (and 'paper') architect receives prestigious Pritzker Prize

A few years back I attended a lecture given by Shigeru Ban who spoke about a few of his projects at Victoria University in Wellington. I was surprised at his humility and his light-hearted sense of humour. To say the least it was a memorable, inspirational and enjoyable lecture.

Ban's work is sincere and simply beautiful, and serves a varied clientele.  As Ban responds in an interview with Metropolis, he was "tired of working for [privileged people with money and power]" and believes "architects can use [their] experience and knowledge more for society". 

This belief is reflected in Ban's comprehensive disaster-relief work for affected countries all over the world. Below is a selection of his projects, which show his (famous) use of a paper structure:

1 - Christchurch Cardboard Transitional Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand following the 2011 earthquake. Ban designed this pro bono (for free), the design of which features 86 cardboard tubes and a polycarbon roof supported by eight shipping containers. 2 - Hannover Expo Japan Pavilion, a grid shell structure, whose recycled paper tubes could be dismantled and again recycled. 3 - Paper Emergency Shelter for UNHCR during the humanitarian crisis of war-torn Rwanda in 1994. Before Ban designed his paper solution, refugees were provided with aluminium poles. Bus as aluminium fetched good prices on local markets they preferred to sell them. 4 - Paper Temporary Studio on top of the Pompidou. After winning the competition to design the Pompidou Metz, Ban set up office (with a paper structure - of course) on top of the Pompidou do that he could oversee every detail relating to his design. As Ban jokes in his Ted Talk: "Free rent for six years!" 5 - Privacy Screens for large open-spaced public facilities following the Japan earthquake. 6-9 A Paper Tube School for China's Sichuan province following the quake in May 2009.

It is a well-deserved win for Ban - as the Pritzker Jury (2014) says:

“Shigeru Ban is a tireless architect whose work exudes optimism. Where others may see insurmountable challenges, Ban sees a call to action. Where others might take a tested path, he sees the opportunity to innovate. He is a committed teacher who is not only a role model for younger generation, but also an inspiration.”


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