There’s reducing, reusing, recycling—and then, there’s an architect who transforms cardboard tubes into miracle building materials.
Shigeru Ban, a Japanese architect renowned for his functional, sturdy paper-made structures, has built projects ranging from bridges and exhibition pavilions to emergency housing shelters.
He realized back in 1986 that the spools used for carpets, cloth and paper, are, in fact, strong, lightweight, and inexpensive, making them the perfect medium for building bridges. Best of all, he keeps all that waste from heading for the landfill.
“I just didn’t want to waste material—it’s as simple as that,” Ban told Martin Moeller in an interview. “I was put under the label of ‘environment-friendly architect,’ but that is not my strategy. I just want to use any material where it is.”
As the 2014 Pritzker Architecture Prize recipient, he works with engineers and consultants to make sure that his structures are absolutely sound.
One of his most popular designs is a temporary bridge he built in 2007 over the Gardon River in southern France, which can hold twenty people at a time. The entire structure was made from cardboard tubes that formed two arc-shaped trusses that support a stairway.
Erected for the summer tourist season, the bridge is part practical and part sculpture standing elegantly next to the ancient Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard.
Ban also helps save lives by building emergency shelters out of the tubes, pairing them with rock-filled foundations and walls of woven bamboo sheeting.
He built the shelters for survivors of the earthquakes in Turkey (2000), Bhuj, India (2001), and Haiti (2010).
He also collaborated with the Make It Right foundation to construct housing in New Orleans following Katrina, and has led ongoing reconstruction efforts in the Philippines.
Currently, Ban serves as leader of an architects-without-borders-type group called, Voluntary Architects Network. The organization provides emergency housing and basic infrastructural amenities to disaster-stricken areas worldwide, including recently in Nepal following the April earthquake.
Photos: (top) courtesy of Shigeru Ban; (center) courtesy of Forgemind Archemedia
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