“Receiving this prize is a great honor, and with it, I must be careful,” said Shigeru Ban, the recipient of the 2014 Pritzker Architecture Prize. “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.“
The 56-year-old Japanese architect will be honored at an award ceremony on June 13 at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. This marks the first time the ceremony will be in the Netherlands, and it will be streamed live on PritzkerPrize.com.
With offices in Tokyo, Paris and New York, Ban designs innovative spaces for private clients and uses the same inventive and resourceful design approach for his extensive humanitarian efforts. For 20 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 and construct simple, dignified, low-cost, recyclable shelters and community buildings for the disaster victims.
In all parts of his practice, Ban finds a wide variety of design solutions, often based around structure, materials, view, natural ventilation and light, and a drive to make comfortable places for the people who use them. From private residences and corporate headquarters to museums, concert halls and other civic buildings, Ban is known for the originality, economy, and ingeniousness of his works, which do not rely on today’s common high-tech solutions.
Paper Emergency Shelter for Haiti, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 2010
To construct his disaster relief shelters, Ban often employs recyclable cardboard paper tubes for columns, walls and beams, as they are locally available, inexpensive, and easy to transport, mount and dismantle; and they can be water- and fire-proofed, and recycled. He says that his Japanese upbringing helps account for his wish to waste no materials.
Ban’s humanitarian work began in response to the 1994 conflict in Rwanda, which threw millions of people into tragic living conditions. He proposed paper-tube shelters to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and they hired him as a consultant.
Paper Log House, Bhuj, India, 2001
After the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, he 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.
“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 disasters,” said Pritzker Prize jury chairman, The Lord Palumbo. “But he also ticks the several boxes for qualification to the Architectural Pantheon—a profound knowledge of his subject with a particular emphasis on cutting-edge materials and technology; total curiosity and commitment; endless innovation; an infallible eye; an acute sensibility—to name but a few.”
Cardboard Cathedral, Christchurch, New Zealand, 2013
The Pritzker Prize jury included Alejandro Aravena, architect and Executive Director of Elemental in Santiago, Chile; Stephen Breyer, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Washington, D.C.; Yung Ho Chang, architect and educator, Beijing; Kristin Feireiss, architecture curator, writer, and editor, Berlin; Glenn Murcutt, architect and 2002 Pritzker Laureate, Sydney, Australia; Juhani Pallasmaa, architect, professor and author, Helsinki, Finland; and Ratan N. Tata, Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons.
Ban served as a member of the Pritzker Architecture Prize jury from 2006 to 2009. He lectures and teaches at architecture schools around the world and is currently a professor at Kyoto University of Art and Design.
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 demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which 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.
Photo Credits: Shigeru Ban Architects, Kartikeya Shodhan (Paper Log House), Stephen Goodenough (Cardboard Cathedral)