Architecture generally involves creating monuments from materials like steel, stone, and concrete. Yet this year, the discipline’s top award is going to a man who is best known for making temporary shelters out of paper tubes, largely for victims of natural hazards. (New York Times)
- Architect Shigeru Ban is well-known for using portable and “transient materials,” such as paper tubing and shipping containers, in his sublime, award-winning work. Take a look at our collection of materials on architecture. (Be sure to filter by “Type: Photo” for a curated list!) What other materials do architects use in their work? Why do you think Ban uses “transient materials” while other architects use more permanent construction?
- Architectural materials include stone, such as sandstone (Cliff Palace) or marble (Taj Mahal); brick (Duomo); tile (Imam Mosque); iron and steel (Bird’s Nest Stadium); concrete (9/11 Pentagon Memorial, which is actually mostly granite); even gold (Dome of the Rock).
- Unlike the structures built with heavy stone or concrete, Ban’s work is temporary, meant for refugees made homeless by natural hazards such as floods and human-made disasters such as war.
- Look through Shigeru Ban’s disaster relief projects. What do you think Ban and his team of architects and engineers had to consider when constructing these projects from material such as cardboard?
- cost—structures are usually pro-bono (meaning Ban does not make a profit) or paid for by the government. The cost for a 52-square-meter “paper log house” is less than $2,000.
- strength (Ban used industrial-strength cardboard tubing, which can withstand many kilograms of pressure, and often reinforces the tubes with timber or metal. This can withstand winds, construction, and roomfuls of rowdy students!)
- water-resistance (Ban laminates most of his cardboard tubing)
- fire-resistance (Ban uses industrial fire-retardant)
- quick construction (Ban uses materials, such as cardboard and shipping containers, that can be easily transported, constructed, and modified for use)
- easy modification for connecting to an electrical grid, water system, and other infrastructure
- reasonable, comfortable living space in a contained area—Ban’s lovely shipping-container shelters for Japanese quake victims is testament to this: “By stacking these containers in a checkerboard pattern, our system creates bright, open living spaces in between the containers. The standard temporary houses issued by the government are poorly made, and there is not enough storage space. We installed built-in closets and shelves in all of our houses with the help of volunteers and with the donation fund. It will become a breakthrough and precedent to new government standards of evacuation facilities and temporary housing.”
- landscape—take a look at Ban’s elevated housing, built to withstand floods and storms, constructed for post-Katrina New Orleans. (Yes, that’s Brad Pitt with Ban.)
- culture—in an Islamic region of Sri Lanka, for instance, Ban had to construct housing that allowed “women to avoid seeing their guests in person.” In Turkey, Ban and his team adapted cardboard shelters originally designed for Japanese use to respect Turkey’s larger timber size—and the fact that most Turkish families have more members than Japanese families. In India, Ban’s team used local materials, such as cane, in the structure.