A Selection of Shigeru Ban's Best Work

Nine Bridges Golf Club. Image © Hiroyuki Hirai

Explore the architectural development of Pritzker Laureate Shigeru Ban - from his early, more minimalist residential work in the 90s to his experimental, undulating structures (2010's Pompidou Metz, Nine Bridges Golf Club) to his latest masterpiece in timber construction, Tamedia New Office Building (2013).

A Selection of Shigeru Ban's Best Work - More Images+ 23

All project descriptions courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

PC Pile House. Image © Hiroyuki Hirai

PC Pile House - Shizuoka, Japan, 1992

This house doubles as a studio for a photographer, built on a steeply sloping site which rises up from the road at a 45-degree angle. The client desired the maximum degree of transparency within a limited budget. A structural system was devised that used 300mm posts of pre-cast concrete to directly support the roof and floor slabs. The floor slab, at 9 meters above the ground, is made from laminated I-shaped wooden structures (10 meters long, spaced at a pitch of 5.5 meters), which rest on the surface of pairs of girders which connect the front and the rear precast concrete piles. The piles penetrate through the building introducing a visual contrast to the white floors and ceiling, which frame the views of the landscape. The south and east sides are fully open to the views with the use of glazed doors, and the north and the west sides are fitted with a double layer of translucent poly-carbonated panels.

House Of Double Roof. Image © Hiroyuki Hirai

Double Roof House - Yamanashi, Japan, 1993

This is a private weekend retreat built on a sloping site overlooking Lake Yamanaka where snowfall often exceeds 900mm in the winter. The house required a roof that could accommodate these heavy snow loads. The double-roof structure could be incorporated on a restricted budget since there was no need for an intensive structural framework. In this scheme the upper roof structure is separated from the ceiling, and its primary structural function is to bear the weight of the snow. To accomplish this, folded steel plates of the minimum allowable dimensions were used. Since the ceiling is not suspended from the roof, it is freed of the deflection margin, and thus the ceiling becomes a second roof with a minimal load. In addition, the upper roof provides shelter against direct sun during the summer. Square sectioned steel pipes are utilized as support beams for the corrugated metal roof. Other structural elements below the roof are made of wood. An exterior covered terrace connects the large living/dining/kitchen area to the bedroom and bathroom, the floor level of which is lowered to correspond the topography of the site. The rooftop level above the bedroom is a terrace with a view toward the lake.

Furniture House 1. Image © Hiroyuki Hirai

Furniture House 1 - Yamanashi, Japan, 1995

The construction system for the Furniture House features factory produced full-height units that function as structural elements as well as space-defining elements. Since these units are pre-fabricated, construction time on-site is greatly reduced and cost-effective. Serving both as the furniture and as the building material, these units enable a reduction of equipment and labor, as well. (The dimensions of the units used in this house are 2.4 meters high, 0.9 meters wide, with an 0.45 meters depth for bookcases and a 690mm depth for other units.) An individual unit, weighing about 79.2kg, can be easily handled by a single person, and its self-supporting function makes the arrangement simple.

Curtain Wall House. Image © Hiroyuki Hirai

Curtain Wall House - Tokyo, Japan, 1995

The house is intended to be a reflection of the owner's lifestyle. It is open to the outdoors and utilizes contemporary materials in new interpretations of traditional Japanese styles. Wide deck spaces are attached to the east and south sides of the second-floor living room and tent-like curtains are hung on the outer facade between the second and third floors. Interior conditons are controlled by opening and closing this Japanese-style "curtain wall". In winter, a set of glazed doors (in combination with the curtain) can completely enclose the house for insulation and privacy. This thin membrane takes the place ofshojiandsudarescreens, andfusumadoors that appear in the traditional Japanese house.

Wall Less House. Image © Hiroyuki Hirai

Wall-Less House -Nagano, Japan, 1997

The house is built on a sloping site, and in order to minimize the excavation work the rear half of the house is dug into the ground, the excavated earth being used as fill for the front half, creating a level floor. The floor surface at the embedded rear part of the house curls up to meet the roof, naturally absorbing the imposed load of the earth. The roof is flat and is fixed rigidly to the upturned slab freeing the 3 columns at the front from any horizontal loads. As a result of bearing only vertical loads these columns could be reduced to a minimum 55 mm in diameter. In order to express the structural concept as purely as possible all the walls and mullions have been purged leaving only sliding panels. Spatially, the house consists of a ‘universal floor’ on which the kitchen, bathroom and toilet are all placed without enclosure, but which can be flexibly partitioned by the sliding doors.

Nine-Square Grid House. Image © Hiroyuki Hirai

Nine-Square Grid House - Kanagawa, Japan, 1997

The furniture units of the "furniture house" were made of steel studs. That system can be improved upon, however. For example, it makes possible a simpler and less noisy assembly process on site, avoids condensation by adding urethane-foam insulation during production process, and eliminates annoying vibration. The spatial composition combines the systems of two walls and a Universal Floor. A large square floor space, 10.4 meters to a side, can be partitioned by full-height sliding doors into nine square areas. These sliding doors allow a variety of spatial arrangements, adjustable to accommodate seasonal or functional needs.

Japan Pavilion EXPO 2000 HANNOVER - Germany, 2000

Despite construction problems, the abrupt replacement of the engineer, months long construction delays, and the necessary addition of a PVC membrane over the paper membrane for fire safety issues, the Pavilions has been a great leap forward in the field of paper architecture. The main theme of the Hanover Expo was the environment and the basic concept behind the Japan Pavilion was to create a structure that would produce as little industrial waste as possible when it was dismantled. The goal was either to recycle or reuse almost all of the materials that went into the building. The first structural idea was for a tunnel arch of paper tubes, similar to the Paper Dome. However, the Paper Dome was limited by the high cost of wooden joints. I proposed a grid shell using lengthy paper tubing and without joints to my collaborator, Frei Otto. The tunnel arch would be about 73.8m long, 25m wide, and 15.9m high. The most critical factor was lateral strain along the long side, so instead of a simple arch I chose a grid shell of three-dimensional curved lines with indentations in the height and width directions, which are stronger when it comes to lateral strain.

Another goal was to construct the pavilion using methods that were as low-tech as possible, so they argued for simple joints of fabric or metal tape. As the intersection between two paper tubes was pushed up to form the three-dimensional grid, an angle would open and a suitable amount of tension would be applied. Further, since the paper tubes themselves would rotate to draw a gentle S curve, the joint would allow for three-dimensional movement. Tape was an appropriate solution. Otto also proposed a fixed timber frame of ladder arches and intersecting rafters which would lend strength to the paper-tube grid shell and allow a roof membrane to be attached, and which could also be used during construction and for maintenance. The Buro Happold, who supervised construction, proposed metal joints into which bracing cables would be inserted at a diagonal to tension the paper-tube grid while allowing the paper tubes to move in three dimensions. However, the PVC used in conventional membranes cannot be recycled and gives off dioxins when burned. Then we discovered by chance a waterproof bag used by a delivery service. We talked to the manufacturer of the bag, who told us it might be possible to develop something like what we needed. The two semicircular end walls needed planar strength as diaphragms. For these we used timber arches that clamped the ends of the paper-tube grid shell, and then achieved the required planar strength by pulling cables in a 60-degree from the foundation, as in a tennis racquet. On this surface we attached a grid of paper honey-combs in the shape of equilateral triangles, to which were attached louvers for ventilation and the membrane. Instead of relying on concrete the foundation consists of boxes made of a steel framework and footing boards, which were filled with sand for easy reuse after dismantling.

Naked House. Image © Hiroyuki Hirai

Naked House - Saitama, Japan, 2000

Having met the client only once, I was again considering what to do about the project of this house, when the client sent me a facsimile making precise requests. What he wanted was described as a house that “provides the least privacy so that the family members are not secluded from one another, a house that gives everyone the freedom to have individual activities in a shared atmosphere, in the middle of a unified family”. After reading his fax, I knew that I should take up this challenge.

The site of the house sits by a river and is surrounded by fields with greenhouses here and there. 
The external walls made of two sheets of corrugated fiber-reinforced plastics and the inner walls made of a nylon fabric are both mounted on wooden stud frames and sit in parallel. In between are attached clear plastic bags, carefully stuffed with strings of foamed polyethylene for insulation purpose. Through these bags a soft diffused light fills in the interior of the house. 

The house consists of one unique large space of two-story high in which four personal rooms on casters can be moved freely. To reduce weight and optimize mobility, these rooms are not very large and hold a minimum of belongings and fittings. They can be moved accordingly to the needs of their use. Placed against the walls of the house, in front of the heating or air-conditioning units, warm air or a cooling breeze can flow into it. They can also be put side by side and create a larger room, when their sliding doors are removed. They can be taken outside, on the terrace, for the full use of the space inside. They can also work as a supplementary floor for the children to play on top.

Paper Temporary Studio. Image © Didier Boy de la Tour

Paper Temporary Studio - Paris, France, 2004

From winning the competition for the new Centre Pompidou in Metz came the permission to build a temporary studio atop tthe 6th floor roof terrace of the existing Centre Pompidou in Paris. This special location enables the architects to properly control the construction of the new building while allowing the museum visitors to have a peek at the design process.

Nicolas G Hayek Center. Image © Hiroyuki Hirai

Nicolas G Hayek Center - Tokyo, Japan, 2007

Nicolas G. Hayek Center, the new headquarter building for Swatch Group Japan is located in Ginza, the most elegant area for shopping and dining in Tokyo. The fourteen story high building houses the seven major watch shops of Swatch Group at first basement to fourth floor, customer service and offices at 5th to 13th floor, a hall at 14th floor, and mechanical parking lots at the second basement floor.

The building concept originates from the context of Ginza, line up with a large number of elegantshops and high-classed restaurants on both Ginza street and surrounding back streets. To reflect the feature of Ginza into the building, the exterior of the building is covered with four-story-high glass shutters at the front and back façades. Once the glass shutters are opened, the building will be a street in Ginza that anyone can walk through. The interior wall along the large atrium is filled with vegetation to make the shops domain, customer domain, and office domain in a vertical and continuous green park.

To make the seven shops from the first basement floor to the fourth floor with easy accessibility, large glassed showroom elevators welcome the customers. Seven showroom elevators for each brand allow customers direct access to the main shop floor from Plaza at the ground floor. The Plaza called “Watch Street” with seven large showroom elevators and the vertical green wall will be a lively and dynamic place for anyone who steps into the building.

Nine Bridges Golf Club. Image © Hiroyuki Hirai

Haesley Nine Bridges Golf Club House - Korea, 2010

The Nine Bridges Country Club-Clubhouse is a 16,000-square meter facility that serves a golf course. It has an underground level and three floors above grade. There is a main building, VIP lobby building, and a structure with private suites. The atrium and the upper portion of the main building include timber columns and a glass curtain wall, while the base is made of stone (random rubble masonry typical of Korea). The timber area includes the reception zone, a member’s lounge, and a party room. The stone podium houses locker rooms, bathrooms, and service areas. The roof over the main building measures 36 x 72 meters. The unusual tree-like timber columns in the atrium reach to a height of three stories. The partial-timber structure was used to conform to Korean regulations that do not allow timber buildings to exceed 6 000 square meters in size. The first floor of the atrium has 4.5-meter-wide glass shutters that open fully.

Centre Pompidou Metz. Image © Didier Boy de la Tour

Centre Pompidou-Metz - France, 2010

This annex for the Pompidou Center in Paris, is to be built in Metz as a complex including an art museum and theater. By locating a large roof in the park, and by opening the glass shutter façade around the perimeter, a continuous transition of the interior and exterior space is created. The roof is made from laminated wood in a hexagonal woven pattern composed in the form of a Chinese bamboo-woven hat. This large wooden roof is covered in a Teflon-coated fiberglass membrane and allows soft natural light to filter into the interior. The main galleries are a series of 90mx15m cantilevering rectilinear tubes that float above the ground, and their glass window ends point in the direction of the cathedral and other monuments of the city.

Metal Shutter House. Image © Michael Moran

Metal Shutter House - New York, USA, 2010

The Metal Shutter House is a Residential Condominium with a Gallery Retail space on the ground floor. The building is located in the newly re-zoned West Chelsea district of Manhattan just west of the High Line. The Metal Shutter House, in close proximity to other high-rise buildings, is designed to take advantage of both light and surrounding views. In order to create well-lit rooms, each residential unit is a duplex with a double height living room that allows natural light to fill the apartment.Large floor-to-ceiling bi-folding glass doors on the living room façade of each unit completely open the interior space to the exterior. The North façade features screens made of roll-up perforated security shutters, allowing for privacy while in the apartment or on the terrace and creates a distinctly unique openness to the city beyond.

Tamedia New Office Building. Image © Didier Boy de la Tour

Tamedia New Office Building - Zurich, Switzerland, 2013

This new headquarters and radio studios for the Swiss media company Tamedia is situated in the heart of Zurich. On a 1,000m² site within a larger urban block where the main buildings of the group are currently located. The site faces to the east part of the block and has the possibility of developing almost 165 feet of façade facing the Sihl canal.

From an architectural point of view one of the main features of the project is indeed the proposition of a main structural system entirely designed in timber where its innovative character from a technical and environmental standpoint, gives the building a unique appearance from the interior space as well as from the surrounding city. In order to reinforce and express this idea the building skin is entirely glazed and special attention was given to achieve low energy transmission levels that respond to the latest and very strict Swiss regulations for energy consumption.

More projects at Shigeru Ban Architects

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Cite: Becky Quintal. "A Selection of Shigeru Ban's Best Work" 24 Mar 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/489222/a-selection-of-shigeru-ban-s-best-work> ISSN 0719-8884

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