Have you ever known somebody that was cooler than you? Of course you have…there’s always somebody cooler than you. Unless of course, Bill Murray is reading this or something. Then, nope. Move along…you would have no idea; you’re the coolest. For the rest of us, though, life is full of “dang I wish I was that cool” moments – or that good, or that smart, or that inventive…whatever the case may be. You’re moving right along, thinking that what you’re doing (and who you are) is the bee’s knees and then bam, it hits you. You see somebody else and realize that they are the bee’s knees and you are the…bee’s elbows? For people into architecture and design, you know who might make you feel that way? Shigeru Ban.
Shigeru Ban is a socially conscious architect that is as cool as he is inventive. He is known for his “green” tendencies, although by his own preferences, I shouldn’t call them “green.” Talking to The New Yorker, he has commented on the celebrations of his work : “ I have no interest in being ‘Green,’ ‘Eco,’ and ‘Environmentally Friendly.’ I just hate wasting things.”
And waste things he does not. Instead, many of Ban’s structures are made out of recycled items…turning trash into some sort of social treasure. Some of his most noted and inspiring works include:
Nepal Relief Structures:
Following the April 2015 7.8 magnitude earthquake that battered Nepal, Ban unveiled a plan to create relief structures out of the very thing that was causing so much devastation…earthquake rubble. His plan involved using brick collected from collapsed buildings as construction material to fill in modular wooden frameworks. The structures were intended to allow quick, affordable assembly and ultimately measured 3 feet by 7 feet. As a nod to the place they were relieving, the build’s style even coincided with local Nepalese architecture, including some key characteristics such as foldout windows.
Reverberation – Pavilion of Light and Sound:
This was an installation Ban created for , a cosmetics company in the Palazzo Pisani during the Venice Art Biennale. Since it was for a cosmetics company, Ban of course had to bring in some relevant material…and that he did, in the form of 90,000 empty eye shadow containers. Dezeen describes the structure, saying:
“The main surface of the pavilion is covered in empty makeup palettes, creating a tiled effect and filtering the light that passes through the roof. At the base of the curve, a pool of water has been added to provide additional lighting effects inside.”
If you can make empty makeup palettes look cool, you’re really doing something. Mine typically look like I should be warding off a handful of scary infections and only affirm that yes, I do spend too much money at Sephora.
Obviously recognized around the world for his use of un-conventional materials, Ban has used paper and cardboard on multiple occasions. From a paper partition system for evacuees, to a temporary elementary school, to emergency shelters – you name it, Ban has probably made it happen in twice the time and with materials that don’t frequently find their way onto construction sites. Although it’s hard to choose, my favorite paper project that he’s done is a Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The project took place after the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake (which had a magnitude of 6.3), where damage was done to Christchurch Cathedral – a major symbol of the city. Ban designed a temporary cardboard replacement using paper tubes and containers, ultimately creating a space that could hold 700 people, whether for church, a concert, or some other form of event.
I am not the only one to dwell on Shigeru Ban’s brilliance. He has also won the Pritzker Prize, which is the field’s highest honor. The New Yorker quotes Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who is also a member of the Pritzker jury, as saying:
“The world is filled with billions of people, and most of them live in conditions where they will never see an architect or an architect-designed space. To have a first-rate architect pay attention to those in need of shelter, and build better-quality buildings to serve their aesthetic and human needs – that is wonderful.”
Ban’s talent stretches across luxuries to serve pure purpose, as beyond his humanitarian efforts, he has built pieces ranging to include museums, mansions, corporate buildings, golf-course clubhouses, and more. And while he’s raised structures up from the ground using everything from discarded makeup “trash” to paper, he’s upped more than buildings – he’s upped the cool factor. Try and keep up, world. Just try.