stumbled across the book Paper in Architecture by Shigeru Ban and was really impressed with his use of paper tubes as a building material. The recycled paper that goes into what is essentially a reinforced cardboard tube is quite an impressive alternative to wood and other common raw materials. Nevertheless, there were a few obstacles in the way of his initial use of the concept, mainly passing Japan’s strict building code (a problem he would face again later in Germany).
Once in use, Ban found an additional benefit to the concept in that the tubing itself could be manufactured anywhere instead of relying on transportation. This led to designing various disaster relief shelter structures that required little effort to manufacture and employ.
Traditionally, one of the main problems with previously designed relief shelters is that they used metal for the framing and metal can be sold or stolen, therefore defeating the purpose and possibly making things worse for the victims using them. Ban’s designs alleviate this basic problem and have since been used for relief projects ranging from the Kobe earthquake to Rwanda. His paper framed tents and temporary structures from churches to town halls have all met with much success.
Ban’s commitment to humanitarian efforts and sustainable design are a credit to his industry. Far too often we only see the cutting edge in architecture applied to million dollar projects — the results of which we all enjoy for their obvious qualities, but at this point in time, the concept of the common good is a subject all fields of design could stand to focus on a little closer. After all, good design can solve any problem as Shigeru Ban has clearly shown us.