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Shigeru Ban, an architect like no others

Shigeru Ban, who has been nicknamed « the architect of urgency », is known for his humanitarian realizations made from cardboard and paper to help war refugees and victims of natural disasters. Pritzker Prize-winner in 2014 – equivalent of Nobel Prize in architecture-, he has become an iconic figure of architecture but of innovation and non-conformism as well. Where most architects would only wonder « Why? », Shigeru Ban wonders « Why not? ».

Born in Tokyo in 1957, he achieved brilliant studies in architecture and has been involved in the conception of original houses for wealthy clients. These are all projects with which he affirms his style: private homes, museums, railway stations, galleries such as the Centre Pompidou-Metz in France, etc.

The story could have ended there. But when he figured out the abundance and resistance of cardboards rolls which support the architects’ plans, the idea was being born in his head. He also fully realized that those materials may be a credible alternative to wood or concrete which less resist earthquakes. When visiting the company which manufactures those cardboard tubing, he realized they can produce them in all sizes. This signified the beginning of a beautiful story.

The first structure he built from those cardboards is his mother’s workshop. When a disastrous earthquake destroyed the city of Kobé in Japan in 1995, it was only natural for him and his students to help to build shelters made from plastic beer crates and those cardboard rolls. This project which proved to be very successful inaugurated Shigeru Ban’s works as the humanitarian architect of urgency.

Very attentive to field reality, he intervened in emergency situations with the same humanist desire to help, build local and durable constructions, involving the people affected on the ground. “Shigeru Ban’s commitment to humanitarian causes through his disaster relief work is an example for all. Innovation is not limited by building type and compassion is not limited by budget. Shigeru has made our world a better place”, said Tom Pritzker.

By offering an original vision of architecture and a pronounced passion for humanitarian aid, Shigeru Ban invites us to think outside the box. But he questions also the rhythm of shapes and the ephemeral and so time in a certain way.

[Photo credit: urban attitude]

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