Yakushima Takatsuka Lodge by Shigeru Ban Architects
Yakushima Takatsuka Lodge by Shigeru Ban Architects

Shigeru Ban's paper-tube tree house

The Japanese architect brings his "evolved wood" architecture to a suitably arboreal setting

In our monograph, author Matilda McQuaid writes that the brilliant Japanese architect Shigeru Ban refers the paper he uses in his designs as "evolved wood."

"Paper tubes, the form of paper most associated with Ban, actually begin with rolls of recycled paper. These are cut into strips, saturated in glue, and wound spirally around a short metal rod that creates the hollow core of the tube," McQuaid writes. "The tube can be made in any diameter, thickness, and length, depending on its use. And the tubes can be recycled, creating an endless reincarnation cycle."

 

Yakushima Takatsuka Lodge by Shigeru Ban Architects
Yakushima Takatsuka Lodge by Shigeru Ban Architects

Sounds like a more sensible building material than the 'paper houses' headlines that often accompany coverage of Ban's work would suggest, doesn't it? In the past he has been praised for building paper shelters in his tsunami-stricken homeland, and, more notably, a paper cathedral Christchurch, New Zealand, in place of the one leveled in the 2010 earthquake.

 

Yakushima Takatsuka Lodge by Shigeru Ban Architects
Yakushima Takatsuka Lodge by Shigeru Ban Architects

Both were characterized as relief architecture, a quick fix until something more permanent comes along. Yet his more recent paper tube building, a hiking hut set on the steep woodland hillside of Yakushima Island's national park, is actually built on the site of another lodge that had fallen into disrepair.

 

Yakushima Takatsuka Lodge by Shigeru Ban Architects
Yakushima Takatsuka Lodge by Shigeru Ban Architects

The subtropical climate of Yakushima Island, off the southern coast of Japan is hardly a paper-friendly setting. However, Ban explains, "paper tubes can be easily replaced if damaged overtime within the harsh environment of the mountains."

What's more, the architect adds "the paper tube wall allows light to pour inside, by filling transparent tubes in-between."

 

Yakushima Takatsuka Lodge by Shigeru Ban Architects
Yakushima Takatsuka Lodge by Shigeru Ban Architects

The woodland lodge is unlikely to offer much more than a little momentary respite to the park's visitors, yet the choice of material seems to both suit the setting aesthetically, while providing decent structural and environmental integrity. Find out more about this new building here. For greater insight into Ban's life and work, please consider our great monograph.