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Placing inventiveness in the service of humanitarianism: Shigeru Ban, winner of the Pritzker Prize 2014

For the second time in a row, the Pritzker prize has gone to a Japanese architect. As the jury announced on 24 March 2014, architecture's most prestigious award has been won this year by the 56-year old Shigeru Ban.

Shigeru Ban, winner of 2014 Pritzker Prize

Shigeru Ban, winner of 2014 Pritzker Prize

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.

Cardboard Cathedral

Cardboard Cathedral

Cardboard Cathedral

Cardboard Cathedral

Paper Log House

Paper Log House

Paper Log House

Paper Log House

Paper Log House

Paper Log House

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."

Hualin Temporary Elementary School

Hualin Temporary Elementary School

Hualin Temporary Elementary School

Hualin Temporary Elementary School

Concert Hall in L'Aquila

Concert Hall in L'Aquila

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.

Naked House

Naked House

Naked House

Naked House

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.

Curtain Wall House

Curtain Wall House

Curtain Wall House

Curtain Wall House

DETAIL reports about projects by Shigeru Ban

Centre Pompidou in Metz, France

Centre Pompidou in Metz, France

Centre Pompidou in Metz, France

Centre Pompidou in Metz, France

Japanese Pavilion, Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany

Japanese Pavilion, Expo 2000

Japanese Pavilion, Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany

Japanese Pavilion, Expo 2000

Seven Storey Timber Construction Office Building in Zurich, Switzerland

Seven Storey Wood Office Building in Zurich

(report including PDF download)

House near Tokyo by Shigeru Ban

House near Tokyo (1)

(report including PDF download)

House near Tokyo by Shigeru Ban

House near Tokyo (2)

(report including PDF download)

Sports Hall in Odate

Sports Hall in Odate

(report including PDF download)

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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