Shigeru Ban is a Japanese and international architect, known as the activist one. His research involves innovative work with paper, particularly recycled cardboard tubes used to quickly and efficiently house disaster victims.
The question is, why are we talking about him? I have to admit I didn’t know him, I hadn’t ever seen anything about him and now I regret it. Thanks to the Pritzker I have discovered one of the architects that is going to top my reference’s list forever because I couldn’t love more his work. I don’t like him just for his work as an architect and designer but also for his humanitarian work. The Pritzker Jury cited Ban for his innovative use of material and his dedication to humanitarian efforts around the world, calling him “a committed teacher who is not only a role model for younger generation, but also an inspiration.
In 1994, the magnitude 7.2 Richter scale Great Hanshin earthquake devastated Kobe, Japan, which offered a reconstruction project to Ban. Not only are the temporary shelters very cheap and easy to develop as they incorporate community participation, but they offer more versatile living conditions compared to traditionally used tents. The modules have paper tubing for walls with small gaps between each member allowing for ventilation and can also be taped up to insulate. The roof was made up of a waterproof tenting material while the foundation consisted of donated beer crates filled with sandbags.
Ban’s interest in using existing materials aligned with his minimalist ideology. There was never a question of manufacturing a different paper material as current technologies such as waterproofing films, polyurethane and acrylic paints can be used to improve its material properties. In the design of “The Paper Dome” in 1998, paper as an innovative building material had to meet the rigorous construction codes, so a great deal of structural engineering data was submitted to the government. In this project straight paper tube joists were connected by laminated timber joints which are independently expensive but coupled with the paper tubing made for an inexpensive comprehensive budget. In addition, the 6-foot (1.8 m) paper tubes were waterproofed with liquid urethane to minimize expansion and contraction due to humidity variances found in Osaka-Cho Japan.