Japan’s Shigeru Ban wins Pritzker Architecture Prize

Shigeru Ban, the eminent Japanese architect who has pioneered the use of unorthodox materials, including paper, in construction and design, has been awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the profession’s highest honor.

Ban was an almost inevitable choice. A deeply respected figure with a powerful humanitarian track record, he has created temporary housing for victims of natural and man-made disasters around the world. Among his innovations is the use of cardboard and paper — lightweight, cheap, easily transportable materials — to create shelter and public spaces for displaced people and refugees. But he has also used those same materials and many others in the design of architecturally finished structures that are distinctively sleek, minimalist and understated. The Cardboard Cathedral, in Christchurch, New Zealand, features a soaring, A-frame sanctuary space supported by thick, loglike cardboard beams.

Ban’s work is internationally renowned, admired for its consistently experimental approach and its profound integration of traditional Japanese building techniques with a modernist commitment to functional elegance. The 56-year-old architect will be given the prize in June at a ceremony in the Netherlands. Previous Pritzker laureates include Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas.

Philip Kennicott is the Pulitzer Prize-winning Art and Architecture Critic of The Washington Post. He has been on staff at the Post since 1999, first as Classical Music Critic, then as Culture Critic.
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