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Inside the Mind of Shigeru Ban

A rare exhibition in Tokyo offers unique insights into Japanese architect Shigeru Ban’s disaster-relief housing projects, including an exclusive look at his much-anticipated music complex La Seine Musicale in Paris.

Inside the Mind of Shigeru Ban

2014 Pritzer Architecture Prize laureate Shigeru Ban is regarded as one of Japan’s pivotal architects; he is arguably most recognised for his social innovations in architecture – in particular, for his sustainable and innovative solutions for urgent housing in the immediate wake of natural disasters.

Currently on display at Gallery MA in Tokyo’s Midtown, the exhibition Shigeru Ban: Projects In Progress presents a collection of past and present works by the architect, including original sketches, material mock ups and architectural models of key builds, and the recently unveiled and highly-anticipated La Seine Musicale in Paris.

Notably, this is first time in 18 years that Ban presents his work on display. The Gallery MA exhibition is split into three sections over three separate spaces of the gallery: the first entrance showcasing the new La Seine Musicale models, videos and material samples, with the second outdoor space showing 1:3 ratio builds of a few of his sustainable and immediate housing solutions for Nepal and Kumamoto, Japan.

In the outdoor space one will find a 1:3 real-life mock up of a structural frame for the Kumamoto Wooden Prefabricated Housing Project (30sqm houses) – a temporary housing solution made with locally-sourced timber and featuring an inbuilt storage design innovation devised to provide additional soundproofing for thin wooden walls. Shown alongside this project is a unit mock up of the Nepal Reconstruction Project, where new houses and schools were urgently built utilising the brick rubble from the streets after the 2015 earthquake.

The third space covers detailed design, construction and development notes into Ban’s most recent projects and builds such as the Watch Company Headquarters in Switzerland, the Mt Fuji World Heritage Centre in Japan and the Keio University Paper Honeycomb Dome in Tokyo. Also included and exclusively presented is a wooden column mock up in 1:3 scale of the upcoming Yufu City Tourist Information Centre scheduled for 2018.

Importantly, the exhibition provides a first look at the new La Seine Musicale in Paris from competition to completion. Located on the western tip of the Séguin Island to the west of Paris, the site location remained abandoned after the Renault Factory closed in 1992 and after the Pinault Foundation proposed a museum with architect Jean Nouvel in 1999 that never came to fruition. It was only until 2014, that Shigeru Ban finally won the competition to design a music complex on the site. Upon entering the Gallery MA space, one can view a time lapse video of the new structure from foundation to near-completion whilst seated on one of three replica fold-out theatre seats that will be found in the Paris build.

From the architectural model and material samples on display, it’s clear to see that La Seine Musicale is a reflection of Shigeru Ban’s dedication to innovation and unique approach to sustainable design. The project features a public rooftop garden across the entire structure, and a large central dome with a protective shell lattice over a green and gold colour facade. Accompanying the dome, a large solar panel feature (made from polycrystalline PV cell and glass) was created with the domes’ mosaic tiles changing colour depending on the direction of natural light, a feature specially developed for this project. The tiles move in the direction of the sun to increase power generation efficiency and provide shadows on the glass surface.

Shigeru Ban: Projects In Progress runs from 19 April – 16 July 2017 at Gallery MA, Tokyo.

Photos courtesy of TOTO Gallery MA

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