The Pritzker Prize is known as the Nobel laureate equivalent of the architectural community with its award winners beginning in 1979 with Philip Johnson. Begun by the chair and founder of the Hyatt Corporation, Jay Pritzker and his wife Cindy, the winners come from all over the globe and receive a citation, a bronze medallion and a check for $100,000. A jury works throughout the year visiting nominated projects worldwide. Chaired by Lord Palumbo, an architectural historian from the UK, the jurors come from the fields of architecture, business, education, law and cultural management. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is one of the newest members of the jury.
This year’s ceremony was held in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and the award was given to the 7th Japanese winner, Shigeru Ban, age 56. Educated at the Cooper Union School in New York, he has offices in New York, Tokyo and Paris. He was chosen as an outstanding contributor to the field as he works with recyclable materials such as paper tubing. He created a tent city in Rwanda after their civic disasters of 1994. Similarly he moved into Kobe, Japan after an earthquake and provided temporary shelters in 1995. He formed a group called VAN- Voluntary Architects Network. They move into disaster areas and create community spaces which have included churches and cathedrals made from the paper tubing.
Community Church, Kobe, Japan 1995
Christ Church Cathedral, New Zealand, 2013
Lord Palumbo noted that Shigeru Ban was nicknamed Sugar Bear by his classmates at the Cooper Union. He has developed an acute sensibility to community needs and seems to bring an endless stream of innovative ideas to his work. One of his next projects to be completed will be the new art museum in Aspen, Colorado this very summer. He also teaches on the faculty at the Kyoto University for Art and Design in Japan.
Centre Pompidou , Metz, France 2010
Private Paper Residence Sri Lanka, 2014
My poem is a tribute to his remarkable contributions to the world of contemporary architecture.
Chosen for the Pritzker Prize
This lovely man is truly alive
With vision for structures around the globe
Constructed in paper as his story is told.
To help and assist when disaster has struck
Homeless, despondent, and out of luck.
His students and helpers reach out as a core
Of builders of temporary shelter for housing and more.
Paper cathedrals have even emerged
Raising spires so that their rebuilding can surge
And carry the despondent to a new life renewed.
Shigeru Ban and his buildings help the community regroup a new.
His teachers at Cooper Union called him Sugar Bear.
His ideas were controversial and did not win many fairs.
But his vision endured and today he is praised
For each contribution that his team has made.
When you see his temporary office atop the Pompidou
You see the economy of scale that his ideas can eschew.
As our global climate change brings us more earthquakes and fire-
We are pleased that the Sugar Bear has a solution that never seems to tire.
Reinforced paper tubing an amazing weight load can bear-
Vertical and horizontal axis seem to emerge everywhere.
How timely this award by the Pritzker jury so gifted-
The work of Shigeru Ban our hearts and minds have lifted.
Sharon Lorenzo June 2014