Shigeru Ban

Centre Pompidou-Metz - Pose de la première pierre -2
One of the youngest world famous Japanese architects, Shigeru Ban was born in 1957 in Tokyo. He was educated at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and Cooper Union in New York from 1977 – 84. In 1985, he established his own practice in Tokyo1.

Ban’s study under John Hedjuk at Cooper Union greatly expanded his view of the possible combinations of western and eastern methods and building forms2. He acquired a sense of architectural poetics, which included a grasp of structural systems not for structural expression but for a so-called “invisible structure”2. Ban is deliberate in his choice of materials as he seeks the most effective in expressing his concept, which is often translated into the one with the smallest environmental price tag. The most famous of Ban’s innovative structural/material solutions are his paper tube structures, which he has been researching since 19863.

Takatori Catholic Church

The Takatori Catholic Church in Kobe, erected in 1995 after the Great Hanshin Earthquake as a temporary structure, thrust Ban into the international spotlight for its use of paper tube structural walls. He said of the paper, that the material came before the program. Accordingly, Ban has completed several paper-dominant structures in Japan, each requiring special testing by the building codes to ensure stability. Ban is not bent on making paper do more than it can or on inventing a new structural material. He claims he is simply using the material as it exists in a new way3. Ban prefers ecologically sustainable materials like paper and wood; in this he is somewhat unique among Japanese architects. Another example of his creative use of found materials is the 2005 Nomadic Museum in New York made of old shipping containers. Perhaps his most beautiful (and sustainable) work was the Japan Pavilion at the 2000 Hanover Exibition. Made of 20m paper tubes, it maximized covered space with a minimum of material. At the end of the exhibition, it was fittingly dismantled, recycled, and returned to paper pulp4.

1Shigeru Ban Profile Biographies. 3/20/07.

2“Shigeru Ban”, Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia., 3/20/07

3Toshiko Mori. Immaterial | Ultramaterial: Architecture, Design, and Materials. (New York: George Braziller, Inc.), 2002, p. 32.

4Belinda Luscombe.”He builds with a really tough material: Paper”.


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