Shigeru Ban (坂茂, Ban Shigeru; born 1957 in Tokyo, Japan) is an accomplished Japanese and international architect, most famous for his innovative work with paper, particularly recycled cardboard paper tubes used to quickly and efficiently house disaster victims. Shigeru Ban was the winner in 2005 at age 48 of the 40th annual Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He was profiled by Time Magazine in their projection of 21st century innovators in the field of architecture and design
Early life and education
Shigeru Ban studied at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and later went on to Cooper Union's School of Architecture where he studied under John Hejduk and graduated in 1984. Hejduk was a part of the New York Five. From Hejduk, Ban not only learned fundamental elements of architecture, but also gained an interest in ‘architectonic poetics’ or the creation of three-dimensional poetry. Hejduk, the most experimentally minded of the New York Five, had a lasting influence on Ban, whose work has continuing explorations into basic geometric elements. Ban's formal explorations with basic building materials helped to lead him into unique structural solutions.
For Ban, one of the most important themes in his work is the “invisible structure”. That is, he doesn't overtly express his structural elements, but rather chooses to incorporate it into the design. Ban is not interested in the ‘newest’ materials and techniques, but rather the expression of the concept behind his building. The materials he chooses to use are deliberately chosen for how they aid the building to do so.
Traditional Japanese architecture and Western modernism
Ban entertains several schools of architecture, first he is a Japanese architect and uses many themes and methods found in traditional Japanese architecture (such as shōji) and the idea of a ‘universal floor’ to allow continuity between all rooms in a house. In his buildings, this translates to a floor without change in elevation. By choosing to study under Hejduk, Ban opted to do something different. Hejduk’s Rationalist views on architecture provided a way of revisiting Western modernism and gaining a richer appreciation than the reductive vision of it as a rationalized version of the traditionalist—yet ultra-modern—Japanese space. With his Western education and influences, Ban has become one of the forerunning Japanese architects who embrace the combination of Western and Eastern building forms and methods. Perhaps most influential from Hejduk was the study of the structure of architectural systems.
Paper tube architecture
Ban is most famous now for his innovative work with paper and cardboard tubing as a material for building construction. He was the first architect in Japan to construct a building primarily out of paper, with his paper house and required special approval for his building to pass Japan’s building code. Ban is attracted to using paper because it is low cost, recyclable, low-tech and replaceable. The last aspect of Ban’s influences is his humanitarianism and his attraction to ecological architecture. Ban's work with paper and other materials is heavily based on its sustainability and because it produces very little waste. As a result of this, Ban's DIY refugee shelters (used in Japan after the Kobe earthquake, in Turkey, Rwanda and around the world) are very popular and effective for low-cost disaster relief-housing.
Ban created the Japanese pavilion building at Expo 2000 in Hanover in collaboration with the architect Frei Otto and structural engineers Buro Happold. The 72-metre-long gridshell structure was made with paper tubes. But due to stringent building laws in Germany, the roof had to be reinforced with a substructure. After the exhibition the structure was recycled and returned to paper pulp.
Ban fits well into the category of “Ecological Architects” but he also can make solid claims for being modernist, a Japanese experimentalist as well as a rationalist. “I don't like waste” is an apt quote from Ban, summing up his philosophy, known as "Paper Architecture".
Shigeru Ban is the Pritzker Prize winner 2014.
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