Japanese architect Shigeru Ban has been announced as the 2014 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Established by the Pritzker family of Chicago in 1979, the prestigious award is widely regarded as "the Nobel Prize" in the architecture profession.
Shigeru Ban will be the seventh Japanese architect to become a Pritzker Laureate — following the late Kenzo Tange in 1987, Fumihiko Maki in 1993, Tadao Ando in 1995, the team of Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa in 2010, and Toyo Ito in 2013.
Shigeru Ban will officially accept the prize at a formal ceremony in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam on June 13, 2014. This will be the first time the ceremony will be held in The Netherlands.
Past recipients in recent years include Toyo Ito (2013), Wang Shu (2012), Eduardo Souto de Moura (2011), SANAA (2010), and Peter Zumthor (2009). Laureates receive a $100,000 grant, a formal citation certificate, and a bronze medallion based on the designs of famed Chicago architect Louis Sullivan.
From the winning announcement:
"Shigeru Ban, a Tokyo-born, 56-year-old architect with offices in Tokyo, Paris and New York, is rare in the field of architecture. He designs elegant, innovative work for private clients, and uses the same inventive and resourceful design approach for his extensive humanitarian efforts. For twenty years Ban has traveled to sites of natural and man-made disasters around the world, to work with local citizens, volunteers and students, to design and construct simple, dignified, low-cost, recyclable shelters and community buildings for the disaster victims.
Reached at his Paris office, Shigeru Ban said, 'Receiving this prize is a great honor, 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.'
In all parts of his practice, Ban finds a wide variety of design solutions, often based around structure, materials, view, natural ventilation and light, and a drive to make comfortable places for the people who use them. From private residences and corporate headquarters, to museums, concert halls and other civic buildings, Ban is known for the originality, economy, and ingeniousness of his works, which do not rely on today’s common high-tech solutions.
To construct his disaster relief shelters, Ban often employs recyclable cardboard paper tubes for columns, walls and beams, as they are locally available; inexpensive; easy to transport, mount and dismantle; and they can be water- and fire-proofed, and recycled. He says that his Japanese upbringing helps account for his wish to waste no materials.
As a boy, Shigeru Ban observed traditional Japanese carpenters working at his parents’ house and to him their tools, the construction, and the smells of wood were magic. He would save cast aside pieces of wood and build small models with them. He wanted to become a carpenter. But at age eleven, his teacher asked the class to design a simple house and Ban’s was displayed in the school as the best. Since then, to be an architect was his dream.
Ban’s humanitarian work began in response to the 1994 conflict in Rwanda, which threw millions of people into tragic living conditions. Ban proposed paper-tube shelters to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and they hired him as a consultant. After the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, he again donated his time and talent. There, Ban developed the “Paper Log House,” for Vietnamese refugees in the area, with donated beer crates filled with sandbags for the foundation, he lined up the paper cardboard tubes vertically, to create the walls of the houses. Ban also designed “Paper Church,” as a community center of paper tubes for the victims of Kobe. It was later disassembled and sent to Taiwan, and reconstructed there, in 2008.
Ban works with local victims, students, and other volunteers to get these disaster relief projects built. In 1995, he founded a non-governmental organization (NGO) called VAN: Voluntary Architects’ Network. With VAN, following earthquakes, tsunami, hurricanes, and war, he has conducted this work in Japan, Turkey, India, Sri Lanka, China, Haiti, Italy, New Zealand, and currently, the Philippines.
Pritzker Prize jury chairman, The Lord Palumbo, said, 'Shigeru Ban is a force of nature, which is entirely appropriate in the light of his voluntary work for the homeless and dispossessed in areas that have been devastated by natural disasters. But he also ticks the several boxes for qualification to the Architectural Pantheon — a profound knowledge of his subject with a particular emphasis on cutting-edge materials and technology; total curiosity and commitment; endless innovation; an infallible eye; an acute sensibility — to name but a few.'
The citation from the Pritzker Prize jury underscores Ban’s experimental approach to common materials such as paper tubes and shipping containers, his structural innovations, and creative use of unconventional materials such as bamboo, fabric, paper, and composites of recycled paper fiber and plastics.
The distinguished jury that selected the 2014 Pritzker Laureate consists of its chairman, The Lord Palumbo, internationally known architectural patron of London, Chairman Emeritus of the Trustees, Serpentine Galleries, former Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain, former Chairman of the Tate Gallery Foundation; and alphabetically: Alejandro Aravena, architect and Executive Director of Elemental in Santiago, Chile; Stephen Breyer, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Washington, D.C.; Yung Ho Chang, architect and educator, Beijing, The People’s Republic of China; Kristin Feireiss, architecture curator, writer, and editor, Berlin, Germany; Glenn Murcutt, architect and 2002 Pritzker Laureate, Sydney, Australia; Juhani Pallasmaa, architect, professor and author, Helsinki, Finland; and Ratan N. Tata, Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata Group, Mumbai, India. Martha Thorne, Associate Dean for External relations, IE School of Architecture & Design, Madrid, Spain, is the Executive Director of the prize."
Click the thumbnails below for more of Shigeru Ban's projects.