Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is known for his innovative use of the unexpected media from which he builds houses and public structures, from paper and cardboard ceilings to soft and draping curtain walls. While his work is formally and visually interesting, his use of strange materials goes beyond artistic intention, as he has used them in order to easily and efficiently house disaster victims, making himself a praised architect for his charitable vision as well as his talent. In 2014, Ban won the prestigious Pritzker Prize of Architecture, marking his name amongst the top modern architects.
Above: the Centre Pompidou in Metz.
Ban, 57, has been called "the People's Architect," for his charitable work building relief sites in disaster zones, which perhaps has led him to think outside the box and find new solutions to old architectural problems, including the cost and conventions of typical media used for building.
His cardboard cathedral (second and third images) was one notable example of Ban's ingenuity, creating a cathedral relying heavily on recycled cardboard for the community of Christchurch, New Zealand, who had lost their beloved 19th century Anglican church in the massive 2011 earthquake. In the case of the cathedral, as well as his other examples of cardboard architecture, Ban relies on new technologies to aid the construction of waterproofing films and polyurethane and acrylic paints to protect and preserve the cardboard and paper.
Ban's Pompidou Center in Metz, France demonstrates the unique fusion of his Japanese training and minimalist approach. The roof structure was inspired by a Chinese hat Ban found in Paris. Ban's use of hexagonally cut timber echoes the formal appearance of his cardboard structures, which, rather than exposing structural elements, integrate them into the design of the building. This is in line with Ban's overall approach to structure and design, which spares superfluities and efficiently uses media in both beautiful and functional ways.
Ban's Curtain House in Tokyo, Japan is one of his other notable projects. Completed in 1995, This project uses a white, two-story fabric curtain to make up the exterior of the house, paired with sliding glass doors inside for insulation. The use of soft drapery usually associated with the interior as the outer shell of the house is unconventional to say the least, providing a unique kind of privacy without appearing to entirely shut out the outer world, as the fabric remains vulnerable enough to blow in the wind and invite a peek inside.
From his small scale disaster relief projects, to his larger public works, Ban is certainly an architect to watch who uses creativity and structural innovation for the benefit of the larger global community in addition to the greater design world.