Placing inventiveness in the service of humanitarianism: Shigeru Ban, winner of the Pritzker Prize 2014
Shigeru Ban's work combines an inventive attitude to building materials and structures with humanitarian and social engagement. Ban, who attended architecture school in Los Angeles and at Cooper Union in New York, where he studied under John Hejduk, has architectural offices in his home city of Tokyo and in New York and Paris. In 1995 he founded the Voluntary Architects Network (VAN), a non-governmental organisation that provides support to the victims of natural disasters and crises all over the world. As far back as 1994 he designed temporary paper-tube shelters for refugees in Rwanda and after the Kobe Earthquake refined this system into his Paper Log Houses for Vietnamese refugees who had lost their homes in the area. For the victims of the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, he designed a settlement made up of freight containers.
Lord Palumbo, the Pritzker Prize jury chairman, expressed his appreciation of the Japanese architect with the following words: "Shigeru Ban is a force of nature, which is entirely appropriate in the light of his voluntary work for the homeless and dispossessed in areas that have been devastated by natural disasters. But he also ticks the several boxes for qualification to the Architectural Pantheon – a profound knowledge of his subject with a particular emphasis on cutting-edge materials and technology; total curiosity and commitment; endless innovation; an infallible eye; an acute sensibility – to name but a few."
Particular mention is made by the jury of Naked House (2000), a two-storey inner space offering four semi-open "rooms" that can be moved about on castors and thus configured freely and used as required. The building itself is a timber frame clad in translucent corrugated plastic and sections of white acrylic, and at night evokes the glowing light of shoji screens.
In his Curtain Wall House of 1995, Ban blurred the boundaries of the architect's understanding of "walls" and "outer skin", marking the building's perimeter with two-story-high white curtains that can be opened and closed as required. Plus the front and back of his 14-storey Nicolas G. Hayek Center features tall glass shutters that can also be fully opened. Shipping containers were used by Ban to construct the Nomadic Museum, which travelled from New York in 2005 to Santa Monica in 2006 and Tokyo in 2007. Aspen Art Museum, another design by Shigeru Ban, is scheduled to open in August 2014.
DETAIL reports about projects by Shigeru Ban
Shigeru Ban is the seventh Japanese architect to become a Pritzker Laureate to date – the first six being Kenzo Tange in 1987, Fumihiko Maki in 1993, Tadao Ando in 1995, Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa in 2010 and Toyo Ito in 2013.
The award ceremony will be taking take place on June 13 2014 at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam – and thus for the first time in the Netherlands. The ceremony will be streamed live on pritzkerprize.com.
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