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Jan. 28 - Feb. 10, 2005
Vol. 35, Issue 2
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Architect Shigeru Ban wins 40th annual TJ Medal in Architecture


Humanitarian and innovator
Architect Shigeru Ban wins 40th annual TJ Medal in Architecture

Ban Shigeru
Japan Expo 2000

By Jane Ford
Japanese architect Shigeru Ban will receive the 40th annual Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture at a ceremony on April 13, as part of U.Va. Founder’s Day events.

Ban was selected to receive the award for his humanitarian efforts and his innovative use of building materials.

He was the first person in the world to construct a building out of recycled paper with his “Community Dome,” a meeting place for victims of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan. He also designed “The Paper Log House” to provide temporary shelters for the earthquake victims. The houses were later reused at other earthquake sites in Turkey and India, and led to Ban’s work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to create housing for Rwandan refugees.

In 1995, Ban became a consultant to the U.N. commission and established the Voluntary Architects’ Network to address housing shortages and substandard living conditions around the world.

Through his exploration of the structural capabilities of organic materials, such as paper tubes, bamboo and wood, Ban has created a new vocabulary for contemporary architecture based in environmental and social concerns.

He also brings a unique perspective to the exploration of low-cost, and sustainable and prefabricated elements, which are integral to the structure and design of his buildings.

“Shigeru Ban’s groundbreaking work using nontraditional materials, concern for the environment and humanitarian efforts places him at the forefront of new research in architecture,” said Architecture School Dean Karen Van Lengen, who also chaired the Thomas Jefferson Medalist in Architecture Selection Committee. “The ‘Paper Log House’ and other humanitarian efforts are poignant works for an architect to take on, and we wanted to recognize his contributions to this expansion of the realm of architecture.”

 “It is the greatest honor for me to be selected for the 40th annual Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture, to join other previous recipients such as Mies van der Rohe, Alvar Aalto and Frei Otto, who are most influential architects for my architecture,” said Ban, explaining “I am especially happy to know that my humanitarian efforts and my innovative use of recycled materials in architecture were recognized for this award.”

Evident in Ban’s work is the blend of eastern heritage and his western education. Born in Tokyo in 1957, he began his architectural studies in the United States at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and received a bachelor of architecture degree in 1984 from the Cooper Union School of Architecture. In 1985 he returned to Japan and established Shigeru Ban Architects in Tokyo, where he continues to work today.

His poetic architecture, based in environmentally and socially conscious goals, has set a high standard for what it means to be an architect in the 21st century, said Van Lengen, and has garnered him numerous awards which include:

  • The New York Times Sunday Magazine in December 2004, an issue devoted to “The Year in Ideas,” lauded Ban for his innovative design of “The Wandering Museum,” a large, portable exhibition space, constructed using empty cargo containers and recycled paper tubes. The museum will travel internationally from city to city along with the exhibit it was commissioned to showcase;
  • The 2002 World Architecture Magazine Award for the Best House in the World for “Naked House”;
  • In 2001, a World Architecture Award in the
    Europe Category, Public/Cultural Category for his Japan Pavilion at Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany;
  • The Best Designer of the Year Award from Interior magazine in 2001;
  • An Architecture for Humanity Organization award for his “Paper Log House” in 1999; and
  • An Architectural Institute of Japan Prize for best young architect of the year in 1997.

As part of the Founder’s Day events, Ban will give a public lecture on Tuesday, April 12, at 1 p.m. in Old Cabell Hall auditorium, and an exhibition of his work will be on display at the School of Architecture in Campbell Hall, from April 19 through 30, weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Jefferson Medal in Architecture and its counterpart in law recognize lasting contributions in fields that were of great interest to the University’s founder. The awards are the highest outside honors given by U.Va., which grants no honorary degrees, and are sponsored jointly by the University and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Inc., the nonprofit organization that owns and operates Monticello.

“These medals emphasize the vitality of the Jeffersonian ideals of creativity and leadership in today’s world, and it is a privilege to join with the University in honoring individuals whose accomplishments have had a significant impact on our culture as well as our legacy for future generations,” said Daniel P. Jordan, president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.


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