The tireless humanitarian architect receives one of architecture's most prestigious awards
Founded in 1979, the Pritzker Prize is considered one of the top distinctions in the field of architecture. Every year, a living architect is awarded the honor, and the 2014 winner is none other than Japanese architect Shigeru Ban.Known more for his temporary works of humanitarian architecture than permanent icons, Mr. Ban represents an anomaly in his field. His interest in disaster relief architecture was sparked after visiting Rwanda’s refugee camps in 1994. He worked with the United Nations to design prototype tents with paper poles. This was closely followed by the production of temporary housing and his now-famous church made from cardboard tubes in Kobe, Japan, following the 1995 earthquake. In that same year, he established the Voluntary Architects’ Network (VAN). He and other architects in the network have designed shelters for victims of natural and man-made disasters in Japan, China, Italy, Haiti, Turkey, India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and the Philippines.
Born in Tokyo in 1957, Mr. Ban attended the Southern California Institute of Architecture followed by the Cooper Union’s School of Architecture where he graduated in 1984. He established his architecture firm in Tokyo in 1985, followed by offices in New York and Paris. His interest in experimenting with and pushing the boundaries of common materials, such as paper and bamboo, developed early in his career and was reinforced when he began his humanitarian work.
In an official statement, the Tom Pritzker stated, “Shigeru Ban’s commitment to humanitarian causes through his disaster relief work is an example for all. Innovation is not limited by building type and compassion is not limited by budget. Shigeru has made our world a better place.”
Mr. Ban is the seventh Japanese architect to receive the Pritzker Award.