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Shigeru Ban, born on August 5 in 1957, is a Japanese architect that gained international acclaim by using unorthodox materials such as cardboard and paper for structures designed to aid disaster victims around the globe.
His visionary aesthetic, at once fluid and geometric, has taken shape in temporary structures like relief housing, a cathedral, and a bridge—all with an innate understanding of impermanence, the environment, and humanity.
His ability to design buildings that blend human needs with breathtaking visual dynamism was honed at Manhattan’s Cooper Union School of Architecture, where he studied under John Hejduk, one-fifth of the famed New York Five group of architects.
In addition to his humanitarian work, Ban’s has created museums, homes, and short-term pavilions, each showcasing innovative use of space and material.
According to Ban, the only way for architects to keep their work free from the influence of such transient fashions is to come up with new ways to actually build things — new materials, for example, or new approaches to structural engineering.
He was profiled by Time magazine in their projection of 21st-century innovators in the field of architecture and design. The renowned architect has won several design awards since 1985, such as the Display of the Year, Japan, “Emilio Ambasz” Exhibition (1986), the Mainichi Design Prize (1995), the Akademie der Kunste (Berlin Art Award), Germany (2000), the Grand Prize of AIJ 2009: Nicolas G. Hayek Center (2009), the 2017 AIA Awards – Architecture. Aspen Art Museum (2017) and the Japan Wood Design Award 2018, Mt Fuji World Heritage Centre (2018).
Ban’s cardboard cathedral in the largest city on the South Island of New Zealand is among the latest in a succession of projects he has undertaken at the sites of natural and humanitarian disasters.
It was the partial destruction of the city’s original stone-built Christchurch Cathedral in a February 2011 earthquake that prompted him to suggest building a temporary replacement in cardboard.
The undulating fibreglass roof of the Centre Pompidou-Metz in Metz, France, forms a large hexagon over the galleries and restaurant within. The museum, whose interior framework resembles the intricate weave of a Chinese hat, has been one of the area’s most popular tourist attractions since it opened in 2010.
Underneath the wooden roof structure is very easy-to-use galleries — three of them that are each about 90 meters long and 15 meters wide. They pierce the entire structure from end to end. And they are placed at different angles so that at each end they form giant windows overlooking different monuments within the town.
Designed for Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany, the Japanese Pavilion features a wavelike roof made with PVC and paper membranes supported by a cardboard-tube skeleton. Constructed to produce as little waste as possible once dismantled, the pavilion remains the largest paper structure ever built to date.
Located two hours outside Seoul, South Korea, the Haesley Nine Bridges Golf Clubhouse features a distinctive glass atrium with treelike timber columns that seamlessly integrate with the ceiling’s hexagonal wood grid. Completed in 2009, the clubhouse features separate spaces for regular members and VIPs.
“Through these projects, I have strongly realized that it takes some effort to get opportunities to make architecture like this; architecture that which we can clearly see its user, and architecture that we can directly hand the projects into someone who really needs them. Otherwise, we cannot get a chance like this.”
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