Japanese Architect Shigeru Ban Awarded Pritzker Prize for Architecture

Most renowned architects in the world are known for their state-of-the-art designs, dizzying skyscrapers, and imposing façades. But Shigeru Ban has built a name for himself by constructing humble structures that rival his monumental works.

Shigeru Ban has been awarded the 2014 Pritzker Architecture Prize. The 56-year-old architect from Tokyo was first thrown into the architectural limelight for his airy but efficient modernist designs, using recycled materials such as cardboard paper tubes.

He is noted for his humanitarian work, particularly designing shelters for evacuees from natural disasters and refugees in places like Rwanda, Turkey, India, China, Haiti and Japan.

“His buildings provide shelter, community centers and spiritual places for those who have suffered tremendous loss and destruction,” the jury said in its citation. “When tragedy strikes, he is often there from the beginning.”

“Shigeru Ban is a force of nature, which is entirely appropriate in the light of his voluntary work for the homeless and dispossessed in areas that have been devastated by natural disaster,” Peter Palumbo, Pritzker jury chairman, said in a statement.

Ban has dedicated many of his designs to humanitarian efforts, including temporary shelters for people displaced by conflicts or disasters, constructing them from low-cost and reusable items. He built shelters for refugees of the 1994 conflict in Rwanda and also for those affected by the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan.

“After disasters, the building material is going to be more expensive,” Ban explains. “But the paper tube is not building material. We can get this material easily anywhere.”

“When you finish a roll of tracing paper or fax paper, there are always paper tubes left over,” he said. “They were strong and so nice, so I kept them. Then I went to the factory where they made them, and I saw they could make any length and any diameter.”

He has also made permanent structures, notably the Centre Pompidou-Metz museum in Metz, France, with its undulating white roof supported by wooden latticework.

When asked about the prestigious award, Ban was grateful but said he felt that he had not yet made any great achievement. “I’m trying to understand the meaning of this encouragement,” he said.

“When I started working this way, almost 30 years ago, nobody was talking about the environment,” Ban said in a statement. “But this way of working came naturally to me.”

The following is a slideshow featuring some of Ban’s works, from large-scale projects using traditional building materials to structures built from recyclables.

By Maesie Bertumen

Main Image: “Shigeru-Ban-Hannover-Expo-Japan-Pavilion-01” by 準建築人手札網站 Forgemind ArchiMedia/Flickr

Slideshow images: all from Forgemind ArchiMedia/Flickr, with the exception of Paper Tower, courtesy of Duncan C/Flickr

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