Design for Disaster – Paper Tube Shelters by Shigeru Ban


Shigeru Ban - image from

I have been doing allot with the new color trends, but trends can wait a day. I was so taken by this unlikely Da Vinci of paper, and his dedication to the humanity of great design that I felt compelled to share.

On march 11, I woke early and clicked on my PC, and still groggy beheld a scene that at first just confused me. I thought it was some disaster movie trailer. But coffee in hand, I watched in animated horror, live, as people and families much like mine own were hit by a wall of mud and water, swept from the highway and into a curning sea of debris.

The New York Times shared a story of an occasion for design and architecture to have the privilege to rise above its typical patrons and roll up its sleeves in answer creation in answer to the desperate need for dignified habitat.

Shigeru Ban paper tea house - image from tree-higger

The renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is recognized for prestigious offices spanning three continents, that create progressive modern environments, both public and residential. He is known less publicly for his quiet calling to the design and construction of shelters for victims of disaster.

Avant-garde materials, particularly those that are LEED friendly are becoming the rule rather than the exception. Shigeru Ban has pioneered a specialty in building with paper; a material that demonstrates unexpected strength when densly rolled into logs.

A Shigeru Ban Shelter constrcted from Paper and cardboard

Mr. Ban has been creating shelter with dignity and grace since 1995, when he emerged to a nswer the call for temporary housing, for the survivors of the earthquake that leveled Kobe, Japan. His novel designs emerged from humble materials like beer-crate foundations and paper-tubes for walls. 

In 1999, his prototype tents supported by paper poles provided shelter for displaced survivors in post-genocide Rwanda. In Chengdu, China he built a paper-frame schoolhouse to restore some equilibrium by way of education to the lives of children whose lives and homes lay in ruin when an earthquake devastated the Sichuan Province.  

shigeru ban paper-tube schools in china

Mr. Ban shared his plans for aiding those now homeless in Japan, with the New York Times on March 11. Read the question and answers at the New York Times ( ). I hope to follow-up with images to share the synergy that unite great design and creative genius with the human condition by the humblest of means.