Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Cardboard Castle

Shigeru Ban is a Japanese architect who has won the Pritzker Prize for 2014 for his 2010 work, the Centre Pompidou-Metz in Metz, France. This particular work has been recognized not only for its aesthetic innovation but its environmental and cost effective design. The material used to create a majority of the structure is glued laminated timber, allowing for the intricate design and great structural support. Glued laminated timber uses "two to three times more energy and six to twelve times more fossil fuels to manufacture steel beams" according to a study by FPI Innovations, a non-profit organization that studies ways to manage forest resources. Overall, glued laminated timber costs slightly less than that of steel beams.
However, this is not the only achievement under Ban's belt; in an interview with PBS News Hour Ban discusses how he, "was very disappointed about [his] profession as an architect because [he was] mostly working for privileged people." So in a creative effort to make a difference for those who needed shelter, Ban worked in Rwanda creating cheap and effective haven for refugees after the genocide. Like many of the humanitarian projects afterwards, Ban continued to utilize the cheap and sturdy cardboard paper tubes for the structural design of his buildings. In New Zealand he recreated a beloved cathedral from cardboard after an earthquake destroyed the original building. The Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand went up in 2013 and the recreation of the original cathedral features cardboard tubes running up the ceiling supporting the establishment. These and many other creative cardboard constructs have earned him a consultant position with the UN Refugee agency.

What I find most innovative about his work is his ability to use his own talent and apply it to the needs of others. Ban seems to use his creativity for the extrinsic reward of helping others who need an effective but inexpensive shelter or space. A general respect and regard for the environment can be seen through even his private clientele. Ban's work is heavily influenced by traditional Asian culture and style while still meeting the functional desires of the public and maintaining a mindful perspective on the impact his projects make on the environment. Attached is the interview outlining some of the humanitarian and private projects he has taken part in.

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