Shigeru Ban wins the Pritzker Prize

Judges laud the architect's ability to "respond to extreme situations caused by devastating natural disasters"
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Shigeru Ban on his 10 Unit System Chair, 2009
Shigeru Ban on his 10 Unit System Chair, 2009

Shigeru Ban is not short of prizes. The architect and Phaidon author's website lists 46 awards; the earliest dates from the very start of the 56-year-old's career in 1985, while the most recent, for his Yumi lamp, was handed over this year. Nevertheless, we're sure Ban will find an extra special space on the trophy shelf for his just awarded 2014 Pritzker Prize medal.

Often described as the Nobel of the architecture world, the prize, awarded each year, recognises the excellence in a living architect's work. However, the prize also seeks to award building designers who "make a significant and consistent contribution to humanity."

 

Shigeru Ban's Japan pavilion, for EXPO 2000, Hannover, Germany
Shigeru Ban's Japan pavilion, for EXPO 2000, Hannover, Germany

In this second respect, the 2014 laureate is a particularly apt choice. "Shigeru Ban," the judges' citation states, "reflects this spirit of the prize to the fullest. He is an outstanding architect who, for 20 years, has been responding with creativity and high quality design to extreme situations caused by devastating natural disasters. His buildings provide shelter, community centers, and spiritual places for those who have suffered tremendous loss and destruction. When tragedy strikes, he is often there from the beginning, as in Rwanda, Turkey, India, China, Italy, and Haiti, and his home country of Japan, among others."

 

Shigeru Ban's curtain wall house, 1995, Tokyo, Japan
Shigeru Ban's curtain wall house, 1995, Tokyo, Japan

Ban's use of lowly materials - most notably cardboard tubes - and his dedication to disaster relief, has singled him out among the world's foremost architects, many of whom seem more interested in skyscraper commissions than temporary shelters. Internationally he's best known for his Christchurch Cathedral, in earthquake-stricken New Zealand, which he fashioned mainly from cardboard. Nevertheless, he's still found time to produce great works outside disaster zones, such as the Centre Pompidou-Metz art museum and the stunning Curtain Wall house in Tokyo, as well as numerous furniture designs.

 

Shigeru Ban's Christchurch Cardboard Cathedral (2011), New Zealand
Shigeru Ban's Christchurch Cardboard Cathedral (2011), New Zealand

"Receiving this prize is a great honour, and with it, I must be careful," Ban said. "I must continue to listen to the people I work for, in my private residential commissions and my disaster relief work. 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."

 

Shigeru Ban building shelters in Haiti, 2010
Shigeru Ban building shelters in Haiti, 2010

Congratulations Shigeru. We look forward to you receiving the prize on June 15 at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Find out more about his Pritzker citation here, and remember that Shigeru Ban is the subject of a fine Phaidon monograph detailing 32 of his green architecture projects (15 from this century). 

Meanwhile, for more on contemporary building, please take a look at The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century Architecture and the Phaidon Architecture Travel Guide App. Finally, you can find out more about our exciting new Online Atlas website here.


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