This year’s Pritzker Architecture Prize was awarded to Shigeru Ban, who has designed homes, museums, and concert halls. However, he is best known for the temporary buildings that he has designed for refugees and victims of natural disasters.
Many of the temporary buildings are made out of paper tubes, which are inexpensive and easy to find after disasters, when normal building supplies are in demand and more expensive. The buildings are similar to log cabins, except that the tubes are arranged vertically instead of horizontally. Since the paper tubes are lightweight, heavy machinery is not required to construct the temporary shelters.
Ban has built temporary housing for disaster victims in Japan, Haiti, China, India, Rwanda, and New Zealand. The buildings are both functional and architecturally impressive. They are designed to bring people together and give them a sense of dignity.
Ban was born in Tokyo. He studied architecture in the United States and then returned to Japan. He wanted to help people who had lost their homes in natural disasters, rather than focusing exclusively on wealthy clients. He began working with paper tubes in the 1980s, when he had recently graduated from architecture school and needed an inexpensive building material to use as a substitute for wood.
Some of Ban’s temporary buildings have become permanent. For example, the paper church he built after the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan was moved to Taiwan to be used as a community center. The church was designed in an elliptical shape with a solid wall on one side and columns on another. While a permanent building can be destroyed by a natural disaster, Ban believes a temporary building can become permanent if people love it.