Architecture generally involves creating monuments to permanence from . . . transient materials like paper tubes and plastic beer crates.
The Japanese Pavilion for Expo 2000, held in Hannover, Germany, was a grid structure made of recyclable paper tubes resulting in a building with honeycomb. Ban created the pavilion building in collaboration with the architect Frei Otto and structural engineer Buro Happold. The 72-meter-long gridshell structure was made with paper tubes. But due to stringent building laws in Germany, the roof had to be reinforced with a substructure. After the exhibition the structure was recycled and returned to paper pulp. Shigeru Ban, born in Tokyo, Japan, is an international architect, most famous for his innovative work with paper. His use of recycled cardboard tubes affords prompt and efficient housing to disaster victims. In the aftermath of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, Ban built temporary homes for Vietnamese refugees using beer crates filled with sandbags. In the mid-1990s, he was the first architect in Japan to construct a building primarily out of paper and required special approval to pass Japan’s strict building codes. Ban has a romance with paper because of its low cost, recyclability, low-technology and replaceability. Another aspect of Ban’s influence is his humanitarianism and his attraction to ecological architecture. Ban’s work with paper and other materials is heavily based on its sustainability and its lack of waste. As a result, Ban’s DIY refugee shelters (used in Japan after the Kobe earthquake, in Turkey, Rwanda and around the world) are very popular and effective for low-cost disaster relief-housing, as seen in the cardboard container housing in the image below.
Ban is referred to as an ecological architect, a modernist, an experimentalist and rationalist. Ban himself quotes, “I don’t like waste,” summing up his philosophy. He was profiled by Time magazine in their projection of 21st century innovators in the field of architecture and design. In 2014, Ban was named the 37th recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the most prestigious prize in modernist architecture. The Pritzker Jury cited Ban for his innovative use of material and his dedication to humanitarian efforts around the world. If you are wondering about the use of paper in building–no worries–the paper tubes used for support in Ban’s buildings are protected from the elements by a roof above and concrete floors below. Perhaps you would like to make your own paper architecture?