Shigeru Ban giving a slide lecture in
Fayerweather Hall, May 22, 2005.

Hear audio of Shigeru Ban's talk.

Photo by Robert Tobey

2005 Honorary Degree Recipients

Shigeru Ban
Doctor of Humane Letters

Shigeru Ban is a visionary architect known for building strong, efficient and aesthetically pleasing structures from nontraditional materials, including paper and cardboard. His work blends form and function, modern and traditional, east and west.

Ban’s practice is informed by a strong social conscience. Working with the United Nations, he has designed innovative and effective emergency housing for refugees in Rwanda, Turkey and India. Many of his temporary structures are made of paper or cardboard, so they can be erected quickly and are largely recyclable when they are no longer needed. Yet they go beyond functionality and into artfulness, providing not only shelter but also dignity for the displaced. “Refugee shelter has to be beautiful,” Ban has said. “Psychologically, refugees are damaged. They have to stay in nice places.”

In the United States, Ban is perhaps best known for his work as a principal in the THINK team that designed one of the two final entries in the World Trade Center Master Plan Competition. Their design envisioned two 1,665-foot latticework towers straddling the footprints of the original World Trade Center towers. Ban also is architect of the Nomadic Museum, an assemblage of shipping containers designed to house an exhibition of works by photographer Gregory Colbert; now covering much of Pier 54 in New York, the structure will be disassembled and later rebuilt in Los Angeles, Beijing and Paris.

Trained in the west, Ban has always practiced in the east: He established a private architecture firm in Tokyo immediately after receiving his B. Arch. degree from Cooper Union in New York City. While maintaining his private architectural practice, Ban also serves on the faculty at Keio University in Japan.

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