Saturday, February 7, 2009

Humanitarian Architecture

Last year I had the opportunity to hear one of my favorite Japanese architects, Shigeru Ban, speak as he presented his work while competing for the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science. Sadly, he was not chosen for the project, but he continues to do amazing work around the world. I recently read an inspiring article on him in Architectural Record, cleverly titled, Ban-Aid, because of the work he does in disaster-prone developing countries and communities. He has used his paper tube concept from more expensive commissions to develop a housing system that can be built by people from the community in a matter of days.

He first got his start in 1995 by offering his services to a Vietnamese community dealing with the aftermath of an earthquake in Kobe, Japan. He and his students began building temporary shelters out of paper tubes, which was so successful, that the priest from the local church allowed him to rebuild the entire church with this concept. After that, people from all over the world started coming to him for help. He has helped communities in India, Turkey, Sri Lanka, China, among many others.

He is able to fund this type of relief from his many other well-paid commissions but puts his priority in humanitarian work. He will cancel or postpone other priorities in order to respond quickly when disaster strikes. And he approaches both types of work in the same ways; “working with the climate, finding good local architects (who, in disaster cases, will volunteer their services) and choosing suitable materials.” What’s incredible about this man is his eagerness to help free-of-commission. In a world where hiring an architect is considered a luxury, it’s refreshing to see a well-known and successful architect unselfishly care for communities that are in need of aid.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! How wonderful to hear of someone devoting their time and talent to the less fortunate! Such an uplifting post. Maybe with this economy and architects finding more time on their hands, they'll donate some of their design efforts to those in need as well...