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  • Apr 08, 2014

Japanese Architect Shigeru Ban Wins Pritzker Prize

Sustainability-minded architect Shigeru Ban takes this year’s prestigious Pritzker Prize. Courtesy Shigeru Ban Architects, Tokyo.

On March 24, Japanese architect Shigeru Ban was announced as the 2014 laureate for the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize. The self-proclaimed “paper-architect” is known for his humanitarian practice and innovative use of low-cost recyclable materials such as bamboo, fabric and paper tubes.

At 56, Ban, is devoted to helping people at times of despair. His simple recyclable shelters have aided victims of natural disasters throughout the world. In November last year, Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, leaving more than 650 000 people homeless. In response, Ban, with the help of local students and volunteers, built a number of his Paper Log House designs, borrowing his method from a previous project in which he used cardboard tubes to construct emergency housing for the victims of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan.

In his work for private clients, Ban also incorporates unconventional materials into his designs. His 1995 Curtain Wall House in Tokyo, for example, is a two-story building whose entire facade is surrounded by huge white curtains that, when opened, reveal its interior, transforming the entire structure into a patio. Like Ban’s other designs, this house is both sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Founded in 1979 by Jay A. Pritzker and his wife Cindy, The Pritzker Prize is one of the highest honors that can be paid to a living architect. Among the jury members are recognized professionals in the field including the prize’s chairman Peter Palumbo, Alejandro Aravena and Yung Ho Chang. In announcing the award, Lord Palumbo praised Ban’s “profound knowledge of his subject with a particular emphasis on cutting-edge materials and technology,” calling him a “force of nature.” Previous recipients of the award include Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas and last year’s laureate, fellow Japanese Toyo Ito. The award ceremony will take place at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam on June 13, where Ban will receive a USD 100,000 grant along with a bronze medallion.

In August, Colorado’s Aspen Art Museum will reopen to the public in a new building designed by Ban, which is defined by a woven timber screen that spans two of its four facades allowing light to filter throughout the museum.   

Kitty van Leeuwen is a writer currently based in Hong Kong. 

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