Japanese architect and humanitarian Shigeru Ban has won the 2014 Pritzker Architecture Prize, the top award in the field.
Ban, 56, is well known for his airy and modern designs – but he has also been active in using design to help victims of natural disasters and conflict, using traditional Japanese building techniques to provide relief sheltewrs. He is the second architect from Japan to win the $100,000 prize in as many years. Last year’s winner was Toyo Ito.
Noted designs include the Centre Pompidou museum in Metz, France, with its white roof supported by wooden latticework. His works are also known for using low-cost materials that are often locally sourced.
“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,” Peter Palumbo, Pritzker jury chairman, said in a statement.
“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,” Palumbo added.
Ban, has always said he is influenced by the simplicity of Japanese carpentry and has also devoted much of designs to humanitarian efforts, including shelter for people displaced by conflicts or disasters.
He first designed shelters from low-cost and reusable items, often in the form of paper tubes, for refugees of the 1994 conflict in Rwanda and also for those affected by the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan. Another design was for a temporary cathedral, made from cardboard, for the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, after it was hit by an earthquake.
The Pritzker jury cited the works as “simple, dignified, low-cost, recyclable shelters and community buildings for the disaster victims.”
“When I started working this way, almost 30 years ago, nobody was talking about the environment,” Ban said in the statement. “But this way of working came naturally to me.”
The jury also cited Ban’s 1995 Curtain Wall House in Tokyo and Naked House completed in 2000 in Saitama, Japan, as excellent examples of his simple and airy designs.
He will be awarded the prize at a June ceremony at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. The Pritzker Architecture Prize was created by the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy, in 1979 to honor the world’s most innovative architects.