• Art of the Moment

    • The Pritzker Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the field of architecture, was given to Japanese Shigeru Ban this year, who has distinguished himself for his work with victims of natural disasters and war.

    Shigeru Ban, architect of disaster and compassion, winner of the 2014 Pritzker Architecture Prize / 

    In 1979, Jay Pritzker, businessman and philanthropist, founded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, an award that since then has recognized “living architects whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture”.

    With this purpose in mind, the Pritzker Prize has been awarded to artifices of spatial design such as Luis Barragán (1980), Oscar Niemeyer (1988), Frank Gehry (1989), Aldo Rossi (1990), Norman Foster (1999), Rem Koolhaas (2000) and Peter Zumthor (2009), among others who are equally or more renowned. The list is admirable, which is why the Pritzker Prize is one of the most important awards in the field of architecture.

    This year, the 2014 Pritzker Prize was given to Shigeru Ban, a Japanese architect whose style is characterized by his use of vanguard and elemental shapes and materials, while Ban always favors the expression of the concept that makes sense of his buildings. Nonetheless, the most commendable aspect of his work —and one of the main reasons why he won the prize— is the fact that he designs houses for victims of natural disasters and for war refugees. Japan, Rwanda, India and the Philippines are some of the countries that have been stricken by tsunamis, typhoons or civil wars, and where there are hundreds or thousands of homeless people who have been aided by Ban’s work, since his talent as an architect has allowed him to find a balance between resistant buildings which are incidentally quick to build, capable of withstanding the forces of nature and which use local materials. The Onagawa temporary home, built in in Japan for the victims of the 2011 earthquake, was built with ship containers and paper tubes, an excellent example of Ban’s architectural dexterity.

    Tom Pritzker, director of the Hyatt Foundation, stated that "innovation is not limited by building type and compassion is not limited by budget. Shigeru has made our world a better place."

    It’s important to mention that Ban’s participation in many of these projects is pro bono, meaning he does not actually charge for his services and, in turn, he puts as much work into them as he does into renowned projects such as the  Centre Pompidou-Metz in France.

    In terms of the award, the architect said he still does not understand the situation, since he feels that this recognition has arrived too early in his career, when he has not yet reached the level he strives for. But for this very reason he believes the prize is a great incentive to keep working, “to keep doing the same thing”.

    And how could he not when this continuity is marked by helping others.



    II: A cardboard cathedral in New Zealand

    III: "Japan Pavilion," designed for Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany.

    Tagged: architecture, Pritzker Prize, Pritzker Prize 2014, Shigeru Ban, great architects Credits: Images (I: Benoit Tessier/ Reuters; II: Stephen Goodenaugh/ Associated Press; III: Hiroyuki Hirai)