The following is Alejandro Aravena's response to the Shigeru Ban's Pritzker win. Aravena is the executive director of the firm ELEMENTAL S.A and a member of the Pritzker Jury who selected Ban as this year's Pritzker Laureate.
Shigeru Ban has expanded the field of architecture in unexpected ways. He has proved that the inspired artist and the skilled designer is not inevitably condemned to work for a privileged elite, but that innovation can take place while working for the majority, particularly those historically underserved, forgotten or neglected. In order to do that, he redefined the approach to deal with difficult, urgent and relevant challenges, replacing professional charity by professional quality. Ban has shown that no matter how tough the circumstances or scarce the means, good design far from being an extra cost carries the added value of sharp efficiency, power of synthesis and an uplifting feeling.
To take just one example, one of the most shocking experiences in front of Ban's work, was to witness the way the Naked House was built. Glossy magazines at the time, showed pictures of a translucent, ethereal, almost soft building, that talked of a state of the art, high-tech and ultimately expensive construction. It was very impressive to realize that such a new and cutting edge result was achieved with the most simple and unexpected materials: A plywood panel structure tightened by modest 1x2” wood pieces on the edges was externally cladded in clear corrugated plastic. Internally white fabric was attached to Velcro strips simply stapled to the wood. In between, the 50 centimeters air chamber was filled with protective bubble wrap and plastic sleeves filled with polystyrene chips aimed to give thermal mass to this layered skin. The material choices were so nakedly simple that nobody wanted to build it. It was Ban with the help of the people in his office at the time that had to fill the sleeves with the chips himself, put them in his station wagon and drive them to the site to be installed. As if all this was not enough, the house questioned radically the typical domestic program, transforming the set of rooms that conventionally divides and compartmentalizes a house,into a series of elements that move freely through space. The result is of an enviable freshness. It is this approach of a building virtuosity together with an accurate and sharp creative freedom that Ban has put at the service of the most challenging problems. In this sense, Ban has made a big favor to all the architects, expanding our field and chance to influence, and simultaneously contributed with excellence and sophistication to realms that were historically excluded from quality design.
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