Six degrees of a Pritzker

You know “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” right? That game that’s supposed to prove that there are only six connections separating every one in the world from the American actor (your sister has a friend who works for the sanitary engineer who was sub-contracted by the builder who works with Kevin Bacon’s architect)?

Shigeru Ban was named last month as this year’s Pritzker Architecture Prize winner, for his groundbreaking humanitarian work designing disaster-relief shelters (it’s about time we honored architecture that went beyond breathtaking aesthetics, yes?).

Remember this post I wrote from the Milan Fair two years ago, when Hermes launched Shigeru Ban’s Module H wall cladding? I wrote about calling his office for my first magazine job, and Shigeru Ban sent a package of images addressed to me.

That means I had direct connection with a Pritzker Prize winning architect!

But anyway, seriously, Shigeru Ban is my architectural hero.

I drool at Oscar Niemeyer and Frank Gehry’s designs, but this 57-year-old architect is really the one who has touched lives around the world with his paper shelters. Made from cardboard tubes (think giant versions of the brown paper tube that holds your toilet paper), Ban’s shelters are quick to “construct”, sturdy enough to last three years or longer, and quick to dismantle and recycle. They have housed survivors and volunteers of natural disasters in Kobe (Japan), Haiti, Rwanda, India, China and similar disaster-stricken countries.

The low-key architect has his landmark designs, too, of course, and luxury projects (like Module H).

Congratulations, Mr Shigeru Ban…and man, I wish I had kept that bubble-wrap envelop you sent to me when I was a newbie staff writer at Bluprint.

Shigeru Ban in Haiti

Paper log house, Kobe, Japan

Paper church, Kobe, Japan

Paper Concert Hall, L’Aquila, Italy

Module H

All photos, except Module H, courtesy of Pritzker Prize


From crisis response to luxury walls


I first heard of Shigeru Ban from my former professor and boss, Dan Silvestre, when he wrote about the Japanese architect’s paper tube architecture for the section I was editing in my first design magazine job.

Shigeru Ban developed this temporary, modular shelter solution out of recycled cardboard paper tubes as a quick and cheap response for those stricken homeless by natural disasters. The closest I got to him was calling up his office long-distance to follow up on the pictures we needed for publication. You cannot imagine the amount of fan-girl squeals I emitted when the package “from Shigeru Ban” came addressed to me.

At Fuorisalone this year, in the arts & design district of Brera, Hermes launched Module H by Shigeru Ban. It’s luxury DIY wall cladding, if you ask me to explain in a nutshell: you can customize your own wall design according to the modular components you get. Those tiny “H” cutouts are not just for branding; they were designed like grooves for the “H” tongues of the cladding to fit into.

Being Hermes, you can expect the modules to be of velvety leathers, horse-print jacquards and metallic croc-skins.