Blueprint innovation: 16 interviews with international architects

Shigeru Ban

Shigeru Ban. Photo: Bridgit AndersonShigeru Ban. Photo: Bridgit Anderson

Shigeru Ban, recipient of the 2014 Pritzker Prize, does not like ‘abstract’ conversations. A highly pragmatic architect and humanitarian, focused on ‘solving problems’, his paper-tube technology and use of ‘weak’ materials to make everything from a simple shelter to a cardboard cathedral nevertheless shouts poetry too. Ban has taken innovation in a bold new direction: going personally to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and setting up his own NGO, the Voluntary Architects’ Network (VAN).

My work is not about ‘innovation’ in the material sense. I always use whatever is around me.

Wood is a natural thing, so you have the direction of the fibre and also the limitation of the size. There are so many limitations, but I really enjoy turning these limitations into a solution. In the case of the paper-tube structures, there are even more limitations.

An example Ban’s disaster relief development work in Nepal
An example Ban’s disaster relief development work in Nepal. Photo: Voluntary Architects’ Network

At the moment I am working on disaster relief projects in Nepal, Equador and Japan (Kumamoto Prefecture). Please take a look at our website: shigerubanarchitects.com

An example Ban’s disaster relief development work in Nepal
An example Ban’s disaster relief development work in Nepal. Photo: Voluntary Architects’ Network

I try to give people dignity, and I ask them to help us to build together. In the disaster areas we see problems that we have never faced before, and a widening of the problems that must be solved by design.

An example Ban’s disaster relief development work in NepalAn example Ban’s disaster relief development work in Nepal. Photo: Voluntary Architects’ Network

The only thing I can suggest to young architecture students is: travel all around the world!

An example Ban’s disaster relief development work in Nepal
An example Ban’s disaster relief development work in Nepal. Photo: Voluntary Architects’ Network

I do not dream. I just try to solve problems in front of me, one by one. CF

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