“Shigeru Ban’s commitment to humanitarian causes through his disaster relief work is an example for all,” said Tom Pritzker when announcing this year’s laureate. “Innovation is not limited by building type, and compassion is not limited by budget. Shigeru has made our world a better place.”
Ban, a Tokyo-born architect with offices in Tokyo, Paris and New York, is rare in the field of architecture. He designs elegant, innovative work for private clients, and uses the same inventive and resourceful design approach for his extensive humanitarian efforts. For 20 years Ban has traveled to sites of natural and man-made disasters around the world, to work with local citizens, volunteers, and students to design and construct simple, dignified, low-cost, recyclable shelters and community buildings for the victims.
“Receiving this prize is a great honor, and with it, I must be careful,” Ban, 56, said. “I must continue to listen to the people I work for, in my private residential commissions and in my disaster relief work. I see this prize as encouragement for me to keep doing what I am doing—not to change what I am doing, but to grow.“
The citation from the Pritzker Prize jury underscores Ban’s experimental approach to common â€¨materials such as paper tubes and shipping containers, his structural innovations, and creative use â€¨of unconventional materials such as bamboo, fabric, paper, and composites of recycled paper fiber â€¨and plastics.
“Shigeru Ban is a force of nature, which is entirely appropriate in the light of his voluntary work for the homeless and dispossessed in areas that have been devastated by natural disasters,” said Pritzker Prize jury chairman The Lord Palumbo. “But he also ticks the several boxes for qualification to the Architectural Pantheon—a profound knowledge of his subject with a particular emphasis on cutting-edge materials and technology; total curiosity and commitment; endless innovation; an infallible eye; an acute sensibility—to name but a few.”
In all parts of his practice, Ban finds a wide variety of design solutions, often based around structure, materials, view, natural ventilation and light, and a drive to make comfortable places for the people who use them. From private residences and corporate headquarters, to museums, concert halls and other civic buildings, Ban is known for the originality, economy, and ingeniousness of his works, which do not rely on today’s common high-tech solutions.
Ban’s humanitarian work began in response to the 1994 conflict in Rwanda, which threw millions of people into tragic living conditions. Ban proposed paper-tube shelters to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and they hired him as a consultant. In 1995, he founded a non-governmental organization (NGO) called VAN: Voluntary Architects’ Network. With VAN, following earthquakes, tsunami, hurricanes, and war, he has conducted this work in Japan, Turkey, India, Sri Lanka, China, Haiti, Italy, New Zealand, and currently, the Philippines.
His architecture is often called “sustainable,” and environmentally friendly, but he says, “When I started working this way, almost 30 years ago, nobody was talking about the environment. But this way of working came naturally to me. I was always interested in low cost, local, reusable materials.”
The distinguished jury that selected the 2014 Pritzker Laureate consists of its chairman, The Lord Palumbo, internationally known architectural patron of London, Chairman Emeritus of the Trustees, Serpentine Galleries, former Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain, former Chairman of the Tate Gallery Foundation; and alphabetically: Alejandro Aravena, architect and Executive Director of Elemental in Santiago, Chile; Stephen Breyer, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Washington, D.C.; Yung Ho Chang, architect and educator, Beijing, The People’s Republic of China; Kristin Feireiss, architecture curator, writer, and editor, Berlin, Germany; Glenn Murcutt, architect and 2002 Pritzker Laureate, Sydney, Australia; Juhani Pallasmaa, architect, professor and author, Helsinki, Finland; and Ratan N. Tata, Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata Group, Mumbai, India. Martha Thorne, Associate Dean for External relations, IE School of Architecture & Design, Madrid, Spain, is the Executive Director of the prize.
Ban served as a member of the Pritzker Architecture Prize jury from 2006 to 2009. He lectures and teaches at architecture schools around the world and is currently a professor at Kyoto University of Art and Design.
The award ceremony will take place on June 13, 2014, at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The ceremony will be streamed live on PritzkerPrize.com.
The Pritzker Architecture Prize was founded in 1979 by the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy. Its purpose is to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture. The laureates receive a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion.