Shigeru Ban, more than a commitment architect

Yolanda Regodón. Associate Director of Communications. IE Business School

28 April 2014

The Pritzker Prize awarded to Shigeru Ban recognizes the fact that our society needs regeneration, given that his work is a source of hope that sustainable recovery is possible.

Japanese Architect Shigeru Ban has been awarded the 2014 Pritzker Prize in recognition of his efforts in the field of environmental protection and social responsibility. In a world full of pretentious names, large-scale figures and vanity projects, Shigeru Ban reminds us that it is possible to do low-budget projects that respect the environment, and which are there for our enjoyment.   Henrik  Ibsen was so right when he wrote:   " Beauty is the agreement between content and form”.  Today we should be proud to see that prizes are awarded for the responsible use Ban makes of resources, and how he gives everything we use back to society.   But I am especially proud to share with readers that fact that this acclaimed architect, a champion of sustainability, signed an agreement with IE last year to build a pavilion with the support of architect studio Shigeru Ban Architects-Paris and in collaboration with Madrid-based studio Suñer Arquitectura. It is the only construction Shigeru ban has built in Spain and it was designed in line with its purpose, which is to serve as a platform for the exchange of knowledge,  a living center aimed at fostering creation and thought among professionals who know how to work in such an environment. 

Hence, Shigeru Ban has made his mark in Spain after an extensive global trajectory stretching from his native Japan, to Haiti or Paris.   Ban is one of the great international architects who richly deserved this prestigious award. The simplicity of his projects makes for an innovative and sustainable learning process, and is the hallmark of his work. It comes as no surprise that he is also an advisor the UN in the field of refugee situations and the director of NGO Voluntary Architects' Network (VAN),  specialized  in temporary constructions for disaster areas, where he constructs living spaces. Last year he visited Madrid, returning to present his first paper structure in Spain, an ephemeral piece of architecture located on the IE Business School campus. 173 paper tubes make up a structure that is in line with IE’s commitment to innovation and sustainability. This humanistic style of architecture in its purest form is in perfect harmony with the values of the School with which he was working. For those who are not familiar with Ban’s work, I should mention here that one of the main features is the use of non-conventional materials, such as paper or plastic.  The simplicity is such that, as he himself says, he tries to avoid sophisticated details.

It is the height of luxury to be surrounded by such humility, beauty and simplicity, as well as the sheer expertise of Shigeru Ban that shines through in all his structures.  It is like a beacon of hope in the midst of uncertainty, and above all, an affirmation that sensibility still exists among so much feverish urbanistic activity. It is impossible to resist falling for the ephemeral quality of it all. East and West, classic and avant-garde, fleeting beauty and substance, all go hand in hand in the Paper Pavilion Shigeru designed for IE.   Shigeru Ban is an expert in the sustainable recovery of things. He built the concert hall in L’Aquila, Italy, following the earthquake of 2009. He also set up a temporary office made of cardboard and plastic on the terrace of the Pompidou Center in Paris, to have a place to develop and manage the building of the  Pompidou Center-Metz.

Shigeru’s approach points to a promising future. It proves that there are more effective and fairer solutions to the crisis, and tells us that regeneration is needed in multiple areas. What is clear is that sustainable recovery will be a key feature in the years ahead. It’s time to make commitments. Why are we going to miss out on all the benefits that commitment to innovative learning brings?  The development of people and institutions serves as an engine for economic and cultural growth, and creates an enriching work environment.  Now his work and his commitment has been recognized by the Pritzker Prize, a prestigious and consolidated institution that tends to want to remain the same or to change very slowly. Having recognized the work of Asian architects over the last five years, it will now surely continue to seek talent beyond the East, and, who knows, perhaps the next Pritzker Prize could land in India, or Africa.

Published in El Confidencial newspaper
March 2014

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