Tokyo Tect Takes Pritzker Prize

Chicago -- The 2014 Pritzker Architecture Prize has been won by Shigeru Ban, a Tokyo-born, 56-year-old architect.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network applaud the sustainable designs of this architectural master.

For twenty years Ban has traveled to sites of natural and man-made disasters around the world, to work with local citizens, volunteers and students, to design simple, recyclable shelters and community buildings for the disaster victims.

Ban is known for the originality, economy, and ingeniousness of his works, which do not rely on today’s common high-tech solutions.

Wooden Projects

The Swiss media company Tamedia asked Ban to create pleasant spaces for their employees. 
He responded by designing a seven-story headquarters with the main structural system entirely 
in timber. The wooden beams interlock, requiring no metal joints.

For the Centre Pompidou-Metz, in France, Ban designed an airy, undulating latticework of wooden strips to form the roof, which covers the complex museum program underneath and creates an open and accessible public plaza.

To construct his disaster relief shelters, Ban often employs recyclable cardboard paper tubes for columns, walls and beams, as they are locally available; inexpensive; easy to transport, mount and dismantle; and they can be water- and fire-proofed, and recycled. He maintains that his Japanese upbringing helps account for his wish to waste no materials.

As a boy, Shigeru Ban observed traditional Japanese carpenters working at his parents’ house and to him their tools, the construction, and the smells of wood were magic. He would save cast aside pieces of wood and build small models with them.

He wanted to become a carpenter. But at age eleven, his teacher asked the class to design a simple house and Ban’s was displayed in the school as the best. Since then, to be an architect was his dream.

Humanitarian Focus

Ban’s humanitarian work began in response to the 1994 conflict in Rwanda, which threw millions of people into tragic living conditions. Ban proposed paper-tube shelters to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and they hired him as a consultant.

After the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, he again donated his time and talent. There, Ban developed the “Paper Log House,” for Vietnamese refugees in the area, with donated beer crates filled with sandbags for the foundation, he lined up the paper cardboard tubes vertically, to create the walls of the houses.

Ban also designed “Paper Church,” as a community center of paper tubes for the victims of Kobe. It was later disassembled and sent to Taiwan, and reconstructed there, in 2008.

He employs local victims, students, and other volunteers to build his projects.

'Naked House' Commission

The Pritzker jury cited Naked House (2000) in Saitama, Japan, in which Ban clad the external walls in clear corrugated plastic and sections of white acrylic stretched internally across a timber frame. The layering of translucent panels evokes the glowing light of shoji screens.

The client asked for no family member to be secluded, so the house consists of one unique large space, two-stories high, in which four personal rooms on casters can be moved about freely.

Shigeru Ban is currently a professor at Kyoto University of Art and Design. His design firm is based in Paris.

He is the seventh Japanese architect to become a Pritzker Laureate — the first six being the late Kenzo Tange in 1987, Fumihiko Maki in 1993, Tadao Ando in 1995, the team of Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa in 2010, and Toyo Ito in 2013.

The Pritzker Architecture Prize was founded in 1979 by the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy. Its purpose is to honor annually a living architect whose built work has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture. The laureates receive a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion.