Just as the digital age appears to be relegating many paper products to the dustbins of history, Architect Shigeru Ban has found a new purpose for paper: construction. Since 1990, innovator Shigeru Ban has been using paper and cardboard tubes to build structures. Typically, these paper buildings are intended for temporary use in post-disaster scenarios. However, they are often so well loved that locals keep the paper & cardboard structures around long after the disaster has passed.
Paper may seem far too flimsy for use as a dependable building product, but Shigeru Ban has found ways to make his tubes water- and fireproof, and industrial strength to boot. The cardboard or paper tube “bones” of Ban’s structures are recycled from local sources.
In a time when natural disasters are becoming more common, Mr. Ban’s work has given privacy, comfort, and dignity to disaster victims. In a TED talk, Shigeru Ban laments the fact that most of today’s architects work for those who already have power and money. His career has balanced large traditional architecture projects, such as the Centre Pompidou in France, with projects that help the needy. He has designed and built temporary housing structures following disasters in Haiti, Japan, China, Turkey, and other countries around the world.
Ban’s survival structures offer many advantages.
Recycled and Recyclable. Ban’s structures are made with local materials, and they’re designed to be easy to disassemble and recycle after use.
Affordable. Seeing the shameful conditions of refugee camps in Rwanda, Shigeru Ban designed and built cozy, solid paper structures that cost just $50 per unit.
Easy to build. After a 1995 earthquake in Japan, Shigeru Ban built fifty paper tube shelters on beer crate foundations. The construction was designed to be easy for anyone to build, including college students. In the same area, Mr. Ban Also built a temporary church to replace one that had been destroyed in fire. The church as meant to stay in place for three years, but it stayed in place for ten years because the people loved it so. Then, the church was dismantled and rebuilt in Taiwan after a disaster there; it is still standing and used as church to this day.
From refugee structures to gorgeous cathedrals, and from concert halls to partitions for gymnasium shelters, Mr. Ban’s work has spanned all socioeconomic layers across the globe. His innovation and dedication to helping all types of people brings hope to survival situations.