Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban, has spent many years investigating the potential of cardboard construction in his work. His most recent project is a small-scale, modular refugee shelter originally developed after the Niigata earthquake in 2004 and now being deployed in gymnasiums across the Tohoku region for families displaced by earthquake, tsunami or imminent nuclear meltdown. First seen on an Inhabitat post, here.
What do we think?
Ban’s shelter design addresses many of the primary concerns that face its successful implementation in an emergency refugee situation. It is easy to transport, permits rapid assembly, allows flexible adaptation for differently sized user groups and has low embodied energy. Whilst it is hardly soundproof, it nevertheless establishes personal space and a modicum of privacy for families crammed with hundreds of others into each gym.
Critically, Ban’s shelter is cheap to manufacture, avoiding the ineffectiveness of Sean Godsell’s beautiful but unrealistic shelter designed in 2001 out of a recycled shipping container, Future Shack. With a price tag of AU$40,000, it was entirely unsuitable for mass-production.
We applaud Ban for devoting energy to an important issue that has surfaced in the aftermaths of each of Japan’s recent earthquakes, and that, given our planet’s increasing climatic instability, is only likely to become more prevalent.
David Neustein offers some interesting (and critical) insight into Ban’s refugee shelters for Australian Design Review, here. According to Neustein, Ban has persevered with cardboard shelter construction for 17 years despite indications it is not always the most suitable material. Neustein asks: is Ban interested in disaster relief architecture out of genuine interest in helping the world, or as an overblown marketing exercise?