Japanese architect Shigeru Ban gave an inspirational talk at this year’s Ecobuild conference in London. His talk was entitled Works and humanitarian activities. It concentrated on Ban’s disaster relief work using cardboard material for constructing temporary structures.
Shigeru Ban started his talk by saying that as an architect he prefers to design buildings for public, and not for privileged individuals. The problem with architecture is that the best projects with a budget normally come from privileged individuals or for creating ‘monuments’ for big corporations. However, Ban is never interested in this side of architecture.
He discovered that what he wanted to do is to make temporary structures better by using cardboard as a quick, low tech and cheap construction material. He started to use cardboard in this way from the beginning of his career. The original idea came from old fax machine paper rolls that were made out of cardboard.
He has created a affordable housing system for disaster relief areas using cardboard which can be put together by non-skilled people. The problem with UN provided shelters have been the fact that they are not sustainable, since local wood needs to be cut to support the plastic tents.
At the moment Ban is developing a new system for semi-permanent, affordable housing concept that is sustainable and also ‘nice’ for the inhabitants. What is permanent and what is temporary? The boundaries are getting more and more blurred. Shigeru Ban’s semi-permanent buildings have lasted 10 years and they can be recycled again, by taking the original building down and using materials in new buildings.
One of the most famous recent works is the “Transitional Cathedral” built after the earthquake hit the Christchurch, New Zealand. To answer the question about temporality Ban says that what makes a place permanent is whether people love the building or not. He says today there is no difference when he designs buildings whether they are meant for disaster relief or privileged people – he always designs buildings to be loved.