Tokyo-born architect Shigeru Ban has been awarded the 2014 Pritzker Prize for Architecture, becoming the seventh Japanese architect to receive the honour. Ban follows in the footsteps of Kenzo Tange (1987), Fumihiko Maki (1993), Tadao Ando (1995), the team of Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (2010), and Toyo Ito (2013) to fly the flag for Japanese design talent.
The 56-year-old architect is respected throughout the industry for his ingenious handling of unusual building materials, often utilising cardboard, bamboo, fabric and recycled paper where others may consider only concrete and steel. Through elegant schemes such as the Centre Pompidou-Metz in France and the Haesley Nine Bridges Golf Club House in Korea, Ban has shown himself to be an exceptionally gifted architect.
In a world where sustainability is the primary focus for many architects, for Ban, it is a natural by-product of his design approach. He explains: “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.”
This intuitive selection of local, low cost building materials also features heavily in Ban’s extensive humanitarian efforts. In 1994, he proposed a series of paper tube shelters to the United National High Commissioner for Refugees in response to the conflict in Rwanda and was subsequently hired as a consultant.
A year later, Ban donated his time and skills to those affected by the earthquake in Kobe with the creation of the ‘Paper Log House’ and the ‘Paper Church’, which was later reconstructed in Taiwan. Later in 1995, Ban founded the Voluntary Architects’ Network to encourage other design professionals to help those affected by natural disasters, going on to provide much-needed aid in Turkey, India, Japan, Sri Lanka, China, Haiti, Italy, New Zealand and The Philippines.
On learning that he would be the 2014 Pritzker Prize for Architecture recipient, Ban said: “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, in my private residential commissions and in my disaster relief work. 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.”