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By Arwa Lodhi
We couldn’t be more delighted that the renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban has won this year’s Pritzker Architecture prize. We’ve covered Ban before in Eluxe, for his outstanding cathedral in New Zealand that’s constructed mainly from cardboard, but this eco-innovator has done much more than that to move his profession in a greener direction.
Ban has shown that recycled cardboard tubes are strong enough to make permanent structures, of course, but he has also shown that these materials can be used for humanitarian purposes too, by making temporary housing for victims of natural disasters and wars.
In fact, Ban has dedicated himself to travelling the world to help those in need, and over twenty years, he has built numerous shelters from recycled materials, such as locally-sourced cardboard tubes for columns, walls and beams, which are easy to put up and take down and can also be made flame-resistant and waterproof.
“After I became an architect I was very disappointed in our profession, because we are mostly always working for privileged people, with power and money,” he stated. Consequently, he began his humanitarian in 1994 to help Rwandan victims of war.
Later, after the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, China, he employed paper columns to build temporary classrooms for children, and he also created privacy partitions for Japanese families suffering from the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. He went on to construct a 3 story shelter for 19 families, all from cardboard.
He has even worked with Brad Pitt to help reconstruct homes after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, in the United States.
“His commitment to humanitarian causes” is “an example for all”, said the judges. “Innovation is not limited by building type and compassion is not limited by budget. Shigeru has made our world a better place,” Tom Pritzker, head of The Hyatt Foundation which awards the prize, stated. The prestigious award includes a grant of $100,000, and will be presented at a formal awards ceremony in Amsterdam in June.
With typical Japanese humility, Ban said he “must be careful” with the honour, which he felt had come “too early”, adding: “I haven’t achieved enough. 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.”
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