Pritzker Prize winner used paper to build cathedral, concert hall and homes for refugees

BY Victoria Fleischer  March 27, 2014 at 4:50 PM EST
In Germany, the Hannover Expo Japan Pavilion was built in 2000. Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai  courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

The Japan Pavilion at the 2000 Hannover Expo in Germany. Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai, courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Paper, a traditional material for home interiors in Japan, is not exactly a typical architectural construction material anywhere else. But this year’s winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize has shown that he can create beautiful structures for shelter, culture and worship from the humble cardboard tube.

Photo by Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Shigeru Ban Architects

Shigeru Ban, who has designed a wide variety of structures, is known for his humanitarian efforts with disaster victims. The Tokyo-born architect has created recyclable shelters for low cost, starting back in Rwanda during the 1994 conflict that left millions without stable living conditions. The UN Refugee Agency made Ban a consultant after he proposed the creation of shelters out of paper tubes.

Ban has provided housing assistance in countries all over the world, including Haiti, China, India and Turkey. In 1995, he designed cardboard houses and a “Paper Church” community center for victims of the earthquake in Kobe, Japan.

According to the Pritzker Prize, he attributes his desire to use recyclable materials to Japanese culture and his upbringing.

The 56-year-old architect also designed the Pompidou Centre-Metz modern and contemporary art museum in France, the Japan Pavilion at the 2000 Hannover Expo in Germany, as well as other innovative structures for private clients.

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See photos of several of Ban’s creations below:

Exterior of the Japan Pavilion, Expo 2000
Hannover, Germany (2000)

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai  courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

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Curtain Wall House
Tokyo, Japan (1995)

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

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Cardboard Cathedral
Christchurch, New Zealand (2013)

Photo by Stephen Goodenough courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Stephen Goodenough courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Stephen Goodenough courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Stephen Goodenough courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

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Paper Concert Hall
L’Aquila, Italy (2011)

Photo by Didier Boy de la Tour courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Didier Boy de la Tour courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Didier Boy de la Tour courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Didier Boy de la Tour courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

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Haesley Nine Bridges Golf Clubhouse
Yeoju, South Korea (2010)

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai  courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai  courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

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Wall-Less House
Nagano, Japan (1997)

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

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Hualin Temporary Elementary School
Chengdu, China (2008)

Photo by Li Jun courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Li Jun courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Li Jun courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Li Jun courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

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Container Temporary Housing
Onagawa, Miyagi, Japan (2011)

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

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Paper Log House
Kobe, Japan (1995)

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

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Paper Refugee Shelters for Rwanda
Byumba Refugee Camp, Rwanda (1999)

Photo by Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Shigeru Ban Architects

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Paper Partition System 4
Japan (2011)

Photo by Voluntary Architects’ Network courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Voluntary Architects’ Network courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Voluntary Architects’ Network courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Photo by Voluntary Architects’ Network courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Watch chief arts correspondent Jeffery Brown’s conversation with Shigeru Ban.