Shigeru Ban AR’84

Pritzker Prize Laureate Shigeru Ban, architect, educator, and humanitarian, is widely recognized as a leader in design and an advocate for humanitarian causes. He began his career at the Cooper Union School of Architecture, where he received his B.Arch in 1984. Shortly after, he founded his firm, Shigeru Ban Architects, in 1985. Since then, his work in architecture, furniture, exhibition design, and temporary structures have broadly demonstrated a sustainable approach to creating new cultural forms and elevating the human experience.

A hallmark of this methodology is Ban’s continuous explorations into the efficient use of natural materials, particularly wood and paper. Through his firm, he has become a global leader in the design and construction of mass timber buildings. With offices in New York, Tokyo, and Paris, he has overseen the completion of over 150 projects worldwide. A notable project is the Swatch and Omega Campus in Biel, Switzerland. Completed in 2019, it is one of the largest mass timber building projects in the world, utilizing 4,600 cubic meters of sustainably sourced wood.

Motivated by the belief that the knowledge and skills of an architect should not be limited to designing only for the privileged, Shigeru has also led the design and construction of over 40 projects in relief housing, community centers, arts facilities, and houses of worship across 6 continents using locally available materials and labor under his NGO, the Voluntary Architects Network (VAN) since 1995. 

A notable example of VAN’s work is the Paper Log House and Paper Church (1995), highly regarded relief projects for Vietnamese refugees affected by the great earthquake in Kobe. Built on the site of the destroyed Takatori Church, the Paper Church utilized a paper tube structure to quickly provide a temporary center that fulfilled the spiritual and communal needs of the congregation. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, VAN has improved accommodations for the homeless by providing socially distanced structures for privacy and health safety within gymnasia and constructed similar separation structures to keep officials and patients safe at COVID testing sites. Known as the Paper Partition System (PPS), it is a simple partition system used in numerous evacuation centers in regions hit by disasters, such as the Great East Japan Earthquake (2011), Kumamoto Earthquake (2016), Hokkaido Earthquake (2018), and torrential rain in southern Kyushu (2020). At the outset of the war in Ukraine, PPS was refugees in Poland, Ukraine, Germany, and France. Most recently, 2023, Shigeru has constructed Paper Log Houses in Syria, Morocco, and Hawaii, after the devastating fires on the island of Maui.

Some of Shigeru Ban’s most renowned works also include: Centre Pompidou-Metz, Metz, France (2011); Cardboard Cathedral, Christchurch, New Zealand (2015); Oita Prefectural Art Museum, Oita, Japan (2014); Japan Pavilion for Expo 2000, Hannover, Germany (2000); Mt. Fuji World Heritage Centre, Shizuoka, Japan (2017), and the Paper Temporary School at Hualin Elementary School, Chengdu, China (2008).

Ban has earned numerous international awards, including the Pritzker Prize (2014), Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture (2005), the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture (2005), l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2010), the Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice (2017), the Augustus Saint-Gaudens Award (2000), and the Princess of Asturias Award for Concord (2022). He also serves as an ambassador among “distinguished thinkers and practitioners” for the New European Bauhaus High-Level Roundtable. He is the 2024 recipient of the Peter Cooper Public Service Award.

Teaching is also a fundamental aspect of Shigeru Ban’s career. He has taught at institutions including Keio University, Harvard, Cornell, and Columbia for more than 20 years, and currently holds a professorship at Shibaura Institute of Technology.