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Maine Real Estate News & Notes

Using Architecture in New Ways


Did you ever hear of a paper building?  Shigeru Ban of Japan has shaken up the world of architecture with innovations that include paper-tube structures used to provide housing, schoolrooms and even a concert hall for earthquake survivors around the world. 

At a time when large architectural firms focus on projects of extremely large scope, Mr. Ban has gone in another direction. His company, Shigeru Ban Architects, has offices in Tokyo, New York and Paris. 

In May, his much-awaited Centre Pompidou-Metz, a new contemporary art museum in northeastern France, will open. The design, which Mr. Ban began six years ago, features a roof of woven steel and plywood, covered with a translucent lattice membrane, and is typical of his attitude that less is more.

For Ban, one of the most important themes in his work is the “invisible structure”.  What that means is that he doesn't overtly express his structural elements, but rather chooses to incorporate it into the design. He is not interested in the ‘newest’ materials and techniques, but rather the expression of the concept behind his building. The materials he chooses to use are deliberately chosen for how they aid the building to do so.  Very often common materials, such as concrete, wood and steel will all be found.

NL-BanMr. Ban first created temporary shelters in disaster zones from paper tubes in 1995, building short-term housing for earthquake survivors in Kobe, Japan. Since then, he has used tubes to build schools in Sichuan, China after an earthquake in 2008 and a music hall in L'Aquila following an earthquake in 2009.

Though he uses the tubes in wide variety of thicknesses and diameters, and are intended for temporary use, many are functional for several years.  In some cases the tubes have be used as load-bearing columns and arches.

Ban created the Japanese pavilion building at Expo 2000 in Hanover in collaboration with the architect Frei Otto and structural engineers Buro Happold. The 72meter gridshell structure was made with paper tubes. But due to stringent building laws in Germany, the roof had to be reinforced with a substructure. After the exhibition the structure was recycled and returned to paper pulp.

At a time when everything seems to be more of the same, its interesting to see new approaches that only years ago would have been considered impossible.


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