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Shigeru Ban wins 2014 Pritzker Prize

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, best known for his cardboard buildings and housing in disaster zones, has won this year’s $100,000 (£61,000) Pritzker Architecture Prize

The judging panel, headed up by chairman Lord Palumbo, praised Ban’s long-term commitment to pro bono disaster relief work for which he has travelled the world and helped local people ‘design and construct simple, dignified, low-cost, recyclable shelters and community buildings’.

Ban is the seventh Japanese architect to win the prestigious prize and the second in a row, following Toyo Ito’s victory last year (AJ 17.03.13). Among the 56 year-old architect’s most famous buildings is the Centre Pompidou-Metz in Lorraine, France with its undulating wooden roof and the recently completed temporary Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand which is made out of cardboard tubes (AJ 19.08.13) (see box below).

Ban, who has offices in New York, Tokyo and Paris, was singled out for his ‘profound knowledge of his subject with a particular emphasis on cutting edge materials and technology’.

The citation for the prize, which is awarded to living architects who demonstrate ‘excellence in built work and who make a significant and consistent contribution to humanity’, described Ban as an ‘outstanding architect’.

‘Shigeru Ban,’ it said, ‘has expanded the role of the profession; he has made a place at the table for architects to participate in the dialogue with governments and public agencies, philanthropists, and the affected communities.

Ban has expanded the role of the profession

It also lauded Ban’s ‘experimental approach to common materials such as paper tubes and shipping containers, his structural innovations, and creative use of unconventional materials such as bamboo, fabric, paper, and composites of recycled paper fibre and plastics.’

The architect, who said he has always been interested in ‘low cost, local, reusable materials,’ described receiving the prize as ‘a great honour’, but added: ‘I must continue to listen to the people I work for, in my private residential commissions and in my disaster relief work.

‘I see this prize as encouragement for me to keep doing what I am doing – not to change what I am doing, but to grow,’ he said.

Ban, who has never been commissioned for a public work in his home country, will receive the award along with a bronze medallion at a ceremony on June 13 at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Interview

Talking to the AJ in New York Shigeru Ban said that working outside Japan ‘had always felt very natural’, and that unlike the major international figures in Japanese architecture, he had not established his reputation in the first instance by designing buildings in his home country. He acknowledged that his use of cheap materials like cardboard and beer crates  ‘relates to a general philosophy not to waste materials, which is quite Japanese’. On the other hand, the idea that using twisted paper or card was Japanese was wrong. ‘Paper in Japan is not used structurally. That idea has more to do with traditions that relate to Ancient Greece.’

In respect of materials and their use in disaster zones, he commented that even strong materials like concrete can be weak, while materials used for formwork could turn out to be stronger.

Shugeru Ban in Metz

Shugeru Ban’s Pompidou Centre-Metz

Hellman

Hellman’s Shigeru Ban cartoon

Chronology

 

1957: Born in Tokyo, August 5
1984: Completes bachelor’s degree from Cooper Union in New York City.
1985: Opens Tokyo office
1994: UN High Commission for Refugees appoints Ban as an advisor after hearing about his designs for paper-tube shelters to house victims of the Rwanda conflict.
1995: Founds VAN: Voluntary Architects’ Network
1995: Pro Bono work following Kobe earthquake. Designs Paper Log House and Paper Church.
1995: Curtain Wall House; private house, Tokyo, Japan
2000: Naked House; private house in Saitama, Japan featuring walls made of clear corrugated plastic
2001: Professor at Keio University
2004: Wins contest for Pompidou Centre-Metz project.
2005: RIBA Fellow
2005-2007 Nomadic Museum (New York, Santa Monica, California, Tokyo)
2011: Professor at Kyoto University
2014: Temporary Cardboard Cathedral, Christchurch, New Zealand

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