Building with Paper Tubes – Shigeru Ban

 In memory of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Hamba kahle Madiba. May your light continue to shine

Since embarking on this project I have spent an inordinate amount of time on the internet, losing myself in the pages of Dezeen and Pinterest. My teenage daughters are quite neglected as their attempts at conversation with me go unanswered. Dinners are haphazard affairs and our nutritional needs are far from being met….but who would have thought that the internet could supply such food for the soul?

The young architects working with me, Emma, Aisling and Fiona, suggested a few inspirational structures  for me to look at online. Amongst their suggestions was the work of the Japanese Architect Shigeru Ban. And I have been blown away!

Bans architecture is best known for his structures which use paper tubes as a material for building construction.

He says, “The first time I used paper was for an interior, but I realized it was strong enough to be used as a structural element — to actually hold up the building. Wood and paper can stand up to earthquakes where concrete can be destroyed. In other words, I discovered that the strength of the materials is unrelated to the strength of the building.”

I am not only enthralled by the beauty of the structures he has created using all the innovative materials he chooses, but how he seems motivated by his heart and his humanitarianism. He has devoted much of his practice designing and making shelter (in the truest sense of the word) for the victims of humanitarian and natural disasters all over the world, in Turkey , Rwanda , Haiti and in the Japanese town of Kobe to name a few.

Ban says “I get the same satisfaction building for a rich privileged person or homeless person” 

kobe log house+ paper tube+building Material+Shigeru Ban+insulationThe Log House in Kobe was built after the earthquake in 1995 as a temporary shelter for the displaced people of the town. The foundation consists of donated beer crates loaded with sandbags. The walls are made from  paper tubes, with tenting material used for the roof. It is insulated with a waterproof sponge tape backed with adhesive that is sandwiched between the paper tubes of the walls. The cost of materials for one 52 square meter unit is below €1500. The unit is easy to dismantle, and the materials easily disposed of or recycled.

CardboardCathedral_+Shigeru Ban+Christchurch+disaster relief+interiorA truly inspirational project recently completed in Christchurch New Zealand on the site of the landmark cathedral which was reduced to rubble during the earthquake of 2011 is The Cardboard Cathedral. Constructed as a simple A-frame structure from 98 equally sized cardboard tubes and 8 steel shipping containers, it is said to be one of the safest, earthquake-proof buildings in Christchurch. Each paper tube is coated with waterproof polyurethane and flame retardants while protected by a semi-transparent, polycarbonate roof. (No it  wont get soggy!) It is a transient structure expected to last for about 50 years

I am struck by the sensitivity of the thought behind the design, a fitting light-filled, hope-filled monument to a community trying to rebuild itself.

What does this mean for The 5k extension?

As well as being inspirational on a number of meta levels, Bans’ work is very inspirational for me and my €5000 extension project in many ways:

  •  He has put huge thought and design into building effectively for low costs, which is imperative in countries affected by disaster. It is heartening to hear that his paper tube structure in Kobe can be reproduced for under €1500.
  • Much of his disaster relief work engages with community, something I hope for this project to do
  • exposes us to the endless possibilities of innovative materials, many of them free, like beer crates filled with sand for foundations
  • Liberates us from the Irish notion of building for life, which is a fallacy anyway, proven by the fact that the Irish landscape is currently littered with skeletons of unfinished concrete developments, which are waiting to be demolished

So lets see where this is going to take us on our journey. Paper might find its way into our building-  perhaps as an insulating material?

Take a look at some other projects by this inspiring Architect:

 A mountain hut built in the National park of Yakushima Island.  The Paper tube wall allows light to pour inside by using transparent tubes in-between. The paper tubes can be easily replaced if they get damaged overtime from the harsh environment of the mountains.

A mountain hut built in the National park of Yakushima Island. The Paper tube wall allows light to pour inside by using transparent tubes in-between. The paper tubes can be easily replaced if they get damaged overtime from the harsh environment of the mountains.

Artists Studio in Onagawa   container housing project. Paper tube stucture with corrugated polycarbonate sheeting cladding the building and alowing light in

Artists Studio in Onagawa container housing project. Paper tube structure with corrugated polycarbonate sheeting cladding the building which allows light in

The Paper Church was built after earthquake in Kobe in 1995. It  was reconstructed  in Taiwan which was also hit by an earthquake in 2005. It stil exists today, having been lovingly maintained by the local community.

The Paper Church was built after earthquake in Kobe in 1995. It was reconstructed in Taiwan which was also hit by an earthquake in 2005. It still exists today, having been lovingly maintained by the local community.

The Paper tea house is made of square paper tubes. Walls are connected by a steel rod and the roof is made of folded paper. The floor and furniture are also made of the same square paper tube profile except the table is made of honeycomb cardboard. It is prefabricated therefore allowing it to be easily assembled or  disassembled.

The Paper tea house is made of square paper tubes. Walls are connected by a steel rod and the roof is made of folded paper. The floor and furniture are also made of the same square paper tube profile except the table is made of honeycomb cardboard. It is prefabricated therefore allowing it to be easily assembled or disassembled

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