Accessibility links

Breaking News

'Paper Architect' Pens Creative Solutions for Refugee Housing

I’m Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Development Report.

Shigeru Ban is called the "paper architect." Mister Ban is an architect in Tokyo known for his designs of temporary shelters made of paper. Many of his designs, such as the "Paper Log House," are built with used cardboard tubes.

Mister Ban designed such houses for people in Kobe, Japan, after the nineteen ninety-five earthquake there. He also designed a community gathering place. More recently, his paper houses provided shelter for people in Turkey and India after earthquakes hit those countries.

Shigeru Ban also has worked with the United Nations to create housing for refugees in Rwanda. And he has established a non-governmental organization called the Volunteer Architects’ Network. Members design buildings for free to help deal with housing shortages and poor living conditions around the world.

In April, the University of Virginia honored Mister Ban. He received the Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture. The school recognized him for his humanitarian efforts, environmental concerns and creative use of building materials.

Shigeru Ban does not just work with paper. He also works with bamboo, wood and other materials. His next project is in Sri Lanka. The plan is to build one hundred houses for people who lost their homes in the tsunami waves last December. The houses will be built with locally made blocks formed from earth.

Mister Ban does not just design houses. One of his works is a temporary space with walls formed from one hundred forty-eighty shipping containers. These steel containers are normally used to transport goods. Huge paper tubes support a roof over the structure.

Shigeru Ban designed the space as a museum for a traveling art show by New York photographer Gregory Colbert. Mister Colbert wanted an unusual place to show his collection of large pictures of animals interacting with humans and nature. The show is called "Ashes and Snow"; the structure is the Nomadic Museum.

The Nomadic Museum is at Pier fifty-four in New York City until June sixth. Next stop is the Santa Monica Pier in Southern California. As the show travels, the shipping containers for the walls will be found locally. Organizers say additional stops are planned in the United States, Europe and Asia.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. Our reports are online at I'm Gwen Outen.