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Shigeru Ban Named 2014 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate

The 56-year-old Japanese architect is praised for his significant and consistent contribution to humanity.

Shigeru Ban


BY Janice Seow

March 25th, 2014


While the architecture discipline often celebrates iconic structures that put their stamp in cities around the world, the prestigious Pritzker Prize this year has chosen to recognise a man that’s perhaps best known for erecting temporary structures made out of humble and impermanent materials such as paper tubes.

Shigeru Ban
Paper Log House in Kobe, Japan following the earthquake of 1995

For twenty years Ban has travelled to sites of natural and man-made disasters around the world where he works with locals, volunteers and students to design and construct simple, dignified, low-cost, recyclable shelters and community buildings for disaster victims.

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Paper Log House in India

But Ban also designs private residences and other more monumental buildings including museums and concert halls; these works are elegant and innovative while utilising the same inventive and resourceful design approach as seen in his humanitarian efforts.

Shigeru Ban
Centre Pompidou-Metz in France – the roof is made of undulating latticework of wooden strips

Indeed, in all parts of his practice, Ban finds a wide range of design solutions, often based around structure, materials, view, natural ventilation and light – and all without a reliance on high-tech solutions.

Shigeru ban
Hannover Expo – Japan Pavilion, featuring the same latticework

On having been named this year’s laureate, Ban says, “Receiving this prize is a great honour, and with it, I must be careful. I must continue to listen to the people I work for… I see this prize as encouragement for me to keep doing what I am doing – not to change what I am doing, but to grow.”

Shigeru Ban
(Left) Curtain Wall House in Japan with curtains along the perimeter of the house that can be opened for better airflow or closed to offer a cocoon-like setting. (Right) Naked House in Japan with layers of translucent panels that let the light in.

Ban’s work has often been described as “sustainable”, but the architect says, “When I started working this way, almost thirty years ago, nobody was talking about the environment. But this way of working came naturally to me. I was always interested in low cost, local, reusable materials.”

Shigeru Ban
Temporary housing made of containers in Japan

The Pritzker jury citation states:

Shigeru Ban is a tireless architect whose work exudes optimism. Where others may see insurmountable challenges, Ban sees a call to action. Where others might take a tested path, he sees the opportunity to innovate. He is a committed teacher who is not only a role model for younger generation, but also an inspiration.

Shigeru Ban
Cardboard Cathedral in New Zealand

Says Tom Pritzker, Chairman of the Hyatt Foundation, which founded the Pritzker Prize, “ Shigeru Ban’s commitment to humanitarian causes through his disaster relief work is an example for all. Innovation is not limited by building type and compassion is not limited by budget. Shigeru has made our world a better place.”

Ban, who earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Cooper Union in New York City in 1984, is the seventh Japanese architect to become a Pritzker Laureate. The first six were the late Kengo Tange (1987); Fumihiko Maki (1993); Tadao Ando (1995); Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (2010), and Toyo Ito (2013).

The Pritzker Architecture Prize ceremony will take place on 13 June 2014 at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Shigeru Ban
shigerubanarchitects.com

Pritzker Architecture Prize
pritzkerprize.com