Page 3 Profile: Shigeru Ban, architect


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The Independent Online

If you build it, he will come…

If you build it and you’re the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, you will be awarded the profession’s greatest honour in the form of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

What’s that?

Hailed as “architecture’s Nobel”, the international prize is awarded annually to a living architect who has made a significant contribution to the industry. Ban, 56, has been given the 2014 award for crafting structures – ranging from homes to art galleries to cathedrals – made out of cardboard.

Cardboard? What’s wrong with bricks and mortar?

“When you finish a roll of tracing paper, there are always paper tubes left,” the Tokyo-born architect said. “They were so strong and so nice, so I kept them. I went to the factory where they made them, and saw they could make any length and any diameter.” Ban was honoured not only for his great eye for design but his humanitarian work, too.

He gives back to the community?

In 1994 Ban was so moved by the displacement of millions in the Rwandan civil war, he proposed paper-tube shelters to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who hired him as a consultant. A year later he built paper log cabins after the Kobe earthquake, with foundations made from sand-filled beer crates and walls of cardboard tubes. He founded the Voluntary Architects’ Network in 1995 and has since helped with disaster relief in Turkey, India, China and Haiti.

Wow, what’s his latest project?

Last year Ban, who splits his time between offices in Tokyo, Paris and New York, built a stunning cardboard cathedral after the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. Lord Palumbo, chair of the Pritzker jury, described Ban as “a force of nature”, which, he said, was “entirely appropriate in the light of his voluntary work for the homeless in areas devastated by natural disasters”. The award is a bronze medallion and $100,000.

What grand designs has he got in mind now?

“This prize is a great honour,” he said. “I must continue to listen to the people I work for, in my private residential commissions and 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."