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Shigeru Ban, the most important architect of emergency housing, finds inspiration in air

May 8, 2019
  • Shigeru Ban, Pritzker Prize 2014, gave an inspiring jumpthegap®(talk) for young architecture students and professionals at the Roca Barcelona Gallery.


Barcelona, May 2019 –The architectShigeru Ban, winnerof the Pritzker Prize in 2014 for his innovative use of materials and his humanitarian efforts all around the world, has given a jumpthegap®(talk)at the Roca Barcelona Gallery, within the framework of the 8th edition of jumpthegap®,an international design competition promoted by Roca for architecture and design students and professionals, which aims to provide them with a platform to show their talent by conceiving sustainable and innovative solutions for the bathroom space.

The inspiring talk given by the renowned Japanese architect started the series ‘Architecture in crisis areas’ which will continue in the next few months at the Roca Barcelona Gallery.


Shigeru Ban, who stands out for offering sustainable and environmentally committed architectural proposals, focused his talk on the current debate about the millions of displaced people who do not find a dignified place to settle until they return home. Ban made a review of his more important works telling the story behind them and explaining the use of materials and the creation of each of the structures, all this under the attentive gaze of young students of architecture and design and professionals of the sector.


The architect has built important buildings such as the Aspen Museum of Art (Colorado), inspired by the mountains and wintry scenery, a space that recalls transparency with planes open to views from both the outside and inside of the building built with wood and paper “I started using this kind of materials before there was even talk of sustainability and ecology.” Another iconic work is the Pompidou Center, the geometric roof is inspired by a Chinese hat, “I bought a bamboo hat and it seemed to me that it had a very architectural shape, therefore I decided to create a wooden roof with those geometrical shapes connecting the wooden pieces,” he comments. But his humanitarian work stands out in his professional career, “I believe it is a good opportunity for architects, it is a way to improve the living conditions of people who are being evacuated or live in temporary homes. Architects not only have to work for privileged people with power and money, we can use architecture to help ordinary people who have lost their homes.”

Ban, through an ingenious use of materials, such as wood, paper and cardboard, erects economic and sustainable buildings for crisis situations. For example, homes built with paper cylinders after the Kobe earthquake (Japan) or the paper partition system inside a pavilion to provide privacy to those affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima (Japan). Another spectacular humanitarian work is Christchurch Cathedral (New Zealand), a church built with his iconic cardboard tubes. But his concern goes beyond buildings, he is aware of the life cycle of the materials he uses “I don’t like to waste material, for this reason in every contract I request that once the temporary constructions are demolished, everything needs to be recycled.”


The renowned architect described architecture as “air”. For him this is not job but a lifestyle “when I take a walk I breathe and that leads me to design, it is a part of my daily routine, that is why I believe that the best way to describe architecture in one word is air”. About the next generations of architects he commented that “they won’t be very different to the current ones, architecture is an unusual field, technology makes it more practical but it doesn’t improve it.” With regard to Roca’s competitionjumpthegap®he pointed out that “it seems a wonderful way to encourage young people to have more opportunities. It's not just worth it for the prize, but for them to realize the good ideas they can bring to the table.”


Roca shows once again its support to the world of architecture and design, organizing talks like the one held yesterday at the Roca Barcelona Gallery bringing renowned architects like Shigeru Ban closer to the public and highlighting the talent of new generations.