The talented, globe-trotting architect Shigeru Ban has created a unique design practice: dwellings of elegance and simplicity for the wealthy and ingenious public buildings (the beautiful Pompidou Centre-Metz France (2011) and the just-opened Aspen Art Museum). But when he won the 2014 Pritzker Prize in Architecture in (March), Ban was being recognized for the humanitarian work he has done for 20 years, designing refugee housing, temporary schools and places of worship in countries that have sustained disasters. This gallery of Ban’s works will blow you away! (Shigeru Ban web site)
A new essay by Dana Goodyear in The New Yorker (Paper Palaces August 11/18 2014) explains how Ban’s innovative use of humble and recycled materials works in both worlds, making him a standout in an increasingly crowded field of international architects.
In The New Yorker essay, Ban says,“ My development was using more humble or weaker materials. The strength of the material has nothing to do with the strength of the building, not even with durability….” Read the essay
Green News Update named him a “hero of the environment” in our April 2014 Earth Week coverage of scientists and others making a difference for the planet – an accolade he probably would not accept. See our article including links to disaster structure photos.
Ban’s public profile is best known on several continents for people who have survived disasters — hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. That reputation had a profound effect on the board that selected him for the Aspen Art Museum, his first permanent US museum commission. Says CEO Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson in The New Yorker, “Everyone here was so taken by the humanitarian work, because people here are so philanthropic….” Not surprisingly, the museum’s debut exhibition is a display of Ban’s humanitarian work (through October 5). Check out the exhibition.
In both Pompidou Metz and the Aspen museum, Ban makes prodigious use of wood as structure and sheathing. Compare and contrast the Aspen facade (above) and the swooping roofline of the Pompidou (top of the article) that sheaths the building. (A 3-minute video at Metz offers a thrilling one-minute conclusion as the roof goes on.)
Ban’s motivation and aesthetic — “mottainai”– which means too good to be wasted in Japanese, beautifully describes his economy of style and materials.