Japanese architect Shigeru Ban has been awarded the top award in architecture, the Pritzker Prize. Ban (56) has been given the accolade primarily for his humanitarian work, such as in the 1995 Kobe earthquake, the Rwanda civil war in 1994, and 2011 Tohoku disaster. After the latter, Ban and his team went into the evacuation centers and built partitions so that refugees would have some privacy while they were waiting for temporary housing. he then also made a large housing complex in Miyagi. In Kobe he constructed a paper dome to house the Takatori Catholic Church, which had been destroyed in the quake.
Ban founded a non-governmental organization (NGO) called VAN (Voluntary Architects’ Network) in 1995. VAN has gone to the sites of earthquakes, tsunami, hurricanes, and conflicts to assist in architectural relief work. Ban has worked with VAN in Japan, Turkey, India, Sri Lanka, China, Haiti, Italy, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Six other Japanese architects have been given the annual honor: Kenzō Tange (1987), Fumihiko Maki (1993), Tadao Ando (1995), Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA) (2010), and Toyo Ito (2013). Ban’s prize makes it two Japanese designers in a row for the prestigious gong, which “honor[s] a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.”
Ban will get the prize officially in Amsterdam in June, including $100,000 in prize money. Based in three cities, he made a name for himself by constructing temporary relief shelters out of cardboard paper tubes and other such low-cost materials.
The Pritzker announcement commented:
An underpinning uniting much of his built work is his experimental approach. He has expanded the architectural field regarding not only the problems and challenges he tackles, but also regarding the tools and techniques to deal with them. He is able to see in standard components and common materials, such as paper tubes, packing materials or shipping containers, opportunities to use them in new ways. He is especially known for his structural innovations and the creative use of unconventional materials like bamboo, fabric, paper, and composites of recycled paper fiber and plastics.
Pritzker Prize jury chairman, The Lord Palumbo, said, “Shigeru Ban is a force of nature, which is entirely appropriate in the light of his voluntary work for the homeless and dispossessed in areas that have been devastated by natural disasters. But he also ticks the several boxes for qualification to the Architectural Pantheon — a profound knowledge of his subject with a particular emphasis on cutting- edge materials and technology; total curiosity and commitment; endless innovation; an infallible eye; an acute sensibility — to name but a few.”
Ban commented: “Receiving this prize is a great honor, and with it, I must be careful. I must continue to listen to the people I work for, in my private residential commissions and in 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.”
Ban, who is often touted as an advocate of sustainable and environmentally-friendly architeecture, also does a lot of commercial work for private cleints. His other famous designs include the Metal Shutter House in Chelsea, New York, the Nicolas G. Hayek Center in Tokyo, and Centre Pompidou-Metz in France.
Designer dog houses adapted to match the breed of the pooch? Well, it already no secret that the Japanese do love two things — pets and good design — so perhaps this marriage was inevitable. After all, we’ve previously seen this two come spectacularly together to create duck-bill design Oppo Quack dog muzzles.
A group of architects, led by designer maestro Kenya Hara, has proposed a series of special dog homes, each one customized for a particular kind of canine.
Participants in the Architecture for Dogs project include Atelier Bow-Wow, Kazuyo Sejima, Kengo Kuma, Shigeru Ban, Sou Fujimoto and Toyo Ito, and more.
Here’s how Hara himself puts it: “Dogs are people’s partners, living right beside them, but they are also animals that humans, through crossbreeding, have created in multitudes of breeds. Reexamining these close partners with fresh eyes may be a chance to reexamine both human beings themselves and the natural environment.”
Word got out online about the project in November but the website has only just gone live, and it also recently exhibited at the Miami Design District.
From the website dog-owners can download blueprints for the designs, plus instructions and videos for how to construct and customize them for your own pet.
There will be another exhibition, this time in Tokyo, in October 2013, along with a book.
The Japan Sport Council has selcted the winning architect for building the new National Stadium Japan.
There were 46 entries from architects around the world in the first stage, of which 11 were then put forward for the final slection. The jury chair was Tadao Ando, the Japanese architect famed for his use of concrete.
The winner has been announced as Iraq-born and British-based studio, Zaha Hadid Architects. Zaha Hadid beat out other short-listed candidates such as locals Toyo Ito and Pritzker-winners Kazuyo Sejima, and other entries from Germany, Britain, Australia and elswhere.
Hadid has previously won the Pritzker and Stirling prizes, and her sporting facilities include the London Aquatics Centre that was a large part of the recent Summer Olympics in the UK.
As Ando put it, the new stadium has “to establish a dialogue with its physical context, which includes sites such as the Meiji Shrine”.
Will the Hadid stadium be up to the challenge? The concept images as any rate look awesome.
The original stadium of course featured in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, although it is not nearly as well known as the nearby Yoyogi National Gymnasium, designed by Kenzo Tange, and which still graces north Harajuku with its curving roof and featured in background shots of the James Bond film You Only Live Twice.
It is to be built by 2018, in time for hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup (and perhaps another Tokyo Olympics in 2020 if Shintaro Ishihara et al has his way).
There has been a lot of this flag-waving based on Sixties nostalgia recently, from Ishihara’s new party name and logo to now the distinct tone of the stadium competition outline, which claims without a hint of irony that “the construction of the stadium is being undertaken as a national project on a scale unprecedented in this century”.
You could argue that a “national” stadium cannot avoid sounding, well, nationalist, though somehow these words chill: “We want to change Japan. We want to make it new again — a nation that lives each day with its head held hight. But we need a symbol — a symbol the entire nation can take pride in, and enthusiastically support.”
Funny, I thought that was the job of the Emperor, a veritable good ol’ egg if ever there was one and certainly a symbol of sorts for the people.
To our cynical eyes, this project smacks less of sport and design, but, like most similarly large-scale projects at times of national crisis, it feels more like bread and circuses: Distracting the population from all the bad things, namely Fukushima, TEPCO and the ineptitude of the government.