Shigeru Ban was born in Tokyo on August 5, 1957. His father was a businessman at Toyota, and his mother is a women’s clothing “haute couture” designer. Ban’s father was very fond of classical music and made Ban learn the violin at a young age. His mother traveled to Europe every year for the fashion weeks in Paris and Milan, which roused Ban’s longing to travel overseas. When Ban was young, carpenters were often hired to renovate the family home, a wooden house. Ban was fascinated by the traditional work of the carpenters, and he liked to pick pieces of wood to build things. Ban decided he wanted to become a carpenter.

Ban excelled at arts and crafts in primary school and junior high school. The model of a house he designed for an assignment during his 9th-grade summer holiday was displayed in his school as the best. He then decided that he wanted to become an architect. In parallel with this dream was his love of rugby. He had played rugby since the age of ten, and while in junior high school, was selected as a member of the junior Tokyo regional team that competed against the Korean national team. Ban hoped to attend Waseda University in order to pursuit both rugby and architecture. After learning of a drawing examination to enter that university, he spent every Sunday, starting in 10th grade, learning how to draw at a painter’s atelier, and from the 11th grade, he went to a drawing school every day after his rugby training at school. Ban was selected as a regular member of his rugby team when he was in 11th grade and played on the national tournament; however, his team was defeated on the first round. He then decided to give up his plans to enter Waseda University, known for its strength in rugby, and go to Tokyo University of the Arts to focus on studying architecture. From the 12th grade, Ban joined the evening classes of a preparation school to enter the university. He learned structural modeling using paper, wood, and bamboo for the first time, and his exceptional ability quickly proved him to be peerless in this area. His teacher at the evening school was Tomoharu Makabe, a graduate from the architecture department of the Tokyo University of the Arts. One day, at Makabe’s house, Ban came across an article on John Hejduk, the “paper architect” and then-dean of Cooper Union’s School of Architecture in New York. Ban’s encounter with the models and plans of these unbuilt buildings was revolutionary for him, and he decided to go to the United States and study architecture at Cooper Union.

In 1977, Ban traveled to California to study English. At that time, he discovered that Cooper Union did not accept students from abroad and only accepted students who transferred from other schools within the United States. Ban searched for a school from which he could transfer and decided to attend the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), which had just been founded and used an old renovated warehouse as the school building. Ban was fascinated by the exciting studio and the school environment. The famous architect and founder of the SCI-Arc, Raymond Kappe, interviewed him, and although Ban could not speak English well at the time, Kappe, impressed by Ban’s portfolio, allowed him to enter the institute as a sophomore. Ban was very inspired by the series of Case Study Houses, which were influenced by traditional Japanese architecture. In 1980, after finishing the 4th year at SCI-Arc, Ban transferred to Cooper Union. All students transferring from other schools started at the sophomore level, and among Ban’s classmates were his current partner in the New York office, Dean Maltz, and other notable architects such as Nanako Umemoto (Reiser + Umemoto), and Laurie Hawkinson (Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects). His teachers were Ricardo Scofidio, Tod Williams, Diana Agrest, Bernard Tschumi, Peter Eisenman and John Hejduk, among others. At the end of the fourth year, Ban took a year of absence from Cooper Union and worked at Arata Isozaki’s office in Tokyo. Ban went back to Cooper Union and received his Bachelor of Architecture in 1984. After graduating, Ban accompanied the photographer Yukio Fukagawa on a trip to Europe, where he visited Alvar Aalto’s architecture in Finland for the first time. Ban was stunned by how Aalto’s architecture emphasized regional context and material.

In 1985, Ban started his own practice in Tokyo without any work experience. Between 1985 and 1986, he organized and designed the installations of an Emilio Ambasz exhibition, Alvar Aalto exhibition, and a Judith Turner exhibition, as the curator of the Axis Gallery in Tokyo. While developing the paper-tube structures that he implemented for the first time at the Aalto exhibition, Ban designed his “PC Pile House,” “House of Double-Roof,” “Furniture House,” “Curtain Wall House,” “2/5 House,” “Wall-Less House,” and “Naked House” as a series of case studies.

When Ban discovered that the two million refugees from the 1994 Rwandan Civil War were forced to live in terrible conditions, he proposed his paper-tube shelters to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and they hired him as a consultant. After the Great Hanshin or Kobe Earthquake in 1995, he built the “Paper Log House” for the former Vietnamese refugees who did not have the possibility to live in the temporary houses provided by the Japanese government. He also built the Takatori “Paper Church,” with student volunteers. This was the trigger to establish the NGO Voluntary Architects’ Network (VAN) and to start disaster relief activities. VAN built temporary housing in Turkey in 1999, western India in 2001, and Sri Lanka in 2004. A temporary school was built after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, a concert hall in L’Aquila, Italy, and shelters after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. After the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, VAN set up 1800 paper partition systems in more than 50 shelters, to give families more privacy. VAN also built temporary housing at Onagawa, Miyagi prefecture, Japan. This brought great improvements in the quality of life in shelters and the temporary housing environment, neglected by the government. Following the devastation of the New Zealand Canterbury earthquake in 2011, Ban built the Cardboard Cathedral as a symbol of reconstruction of the city of Christchurch.

In 1995, Ban’s paper-tube structure development received the permanent architecture certificate from the Minister of Construction in Japan and he completed the “Paper House.” In 2000, in collaboration with German architect/structural engineer Frei Otto, Ban constructed an enormous paper-tube grid shell structure for the Hanover Expo’s Japan Pavilion in Germany. This structure drew attention from all over the world for its recyclable architecture.

In 1998, Nobutaka Higara became Ban’s partner at his Tokyo office.

In 2004, Ban teamed up with Jean de Gastines (partner at his Paris office since 2004) and Philip Gumuchdjian, and won the Pompidou Centre-Metz competition. He gathered Japanese and European students and built a temporary office made of paper-tube structure on the terrace on a top floor of the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

In 2001, Ban was named a professor on the Faculty of Environment and Information Studies at Keio University. After he won the competition of Centre Pompidou-Metz, he established a private practice in Paris with his partner Jean de Gastines. In 2008 he resigned from Keio University and in 2010 he worked as a visiting professor at Harvard University and Cornell University. In 2011, he became a professor at Kyoto University of Art and Design.

Ban is currently working on creating architecture, he volunteers for disaster relief, lectures widely, and teaches. He continues to develop material and structure systems. This work led to not only the paper-tube structures, also laminated bamboo (Bamboo Furniture House, 2002), structural systems constructed of shipping containers (Nomadic Museum, New York, in 2005, Santa Monica in 2006, Tokyo in 2007; Container Temporary Housing, Onagawa, 2011), and wooden structures without metal connectors (Centre Pompidou-Metz, 2010; Haesley Nine Bridges Golf Clubhouse, 2010; Tamedia New Office Building, 2013; Aspen Art Museum, 2014). In addition, he creates furniture and architecture made with carbon fiber (Carbon Fiber Chair, 2009, and Museum Rietberg Summer Pavilion, 2013).




1957                        Born in Tokyo

1977-1980          Southern California Institute of Architecture

1980-1982          Cooper Union School of Architecture

1982-1983          Worked for Arata Isozaki, Tokyo, Japan

1984                        Received Bachelor of Architecture from Cooper Union School of Architecture

1985                        Established private practice in Tokyo, Japan

1993-1995          Adjunct Professor of Architecture atTama Art University

1995                        Established the NGO, Voluntary Architects’ Network (VAN)

1995-1999          Adjunct Professor of Architecture at Yokohama National University

1995-1999          Consultant of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

1996-2000          Adjunct Professor of Architecture at Nihon University

2000                        Visiting Professor of Columbia University

2000                        Visiting Fellow of Donald Keen Center at Columbia University

2001                        State of New York Registered Architect

2001-2008          Professor of Keio University

2004                        Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (HFAIA)            AIA

2005                        International Fellowship of the Royal Institute of British Architects (IFRIBA)

2005                        Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Amherst College

2006                        Honorary Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (HRAIC)

2006-2009          Jury of Pritzker Architecture Prize

2009                        Honorary Doctorate of Technical University of Munich

2010                        Visiting Professor of Harvard University GSD

2010                        Visiting Professor of Cornell University

2011-                      Professor of Kyoto University of Art and Design

2014                        Honorary Doctorate of Cooper Union


Awards and Prizes

1985      SD Review ‘85                SD

1986      Design Competition for the redevelopment of the Shinsaibashi, Osaka

1986      Display of the Year, Japan, “Emilio Ambasz” Exhibition

1988      Display of the Year, Japan, “Alvar Aalto” Exhibition

1988      Osaka Industrial Design Contest, L Unit System

1988      SD Review‘88                 SD

1989      Arflex Design Competition

1993      House Award, Tokyo Society of Architects

1995      Mainichi Design Prize

1996      Innovative Award, Tokyo Journal

1996      Yoshioka Prize

1996      JIA Kansai Architects

1996      Ecoplice House Competition, IAA (International Architects Academy)

1997      The JIA Prize for the best young architect of the year

1998      Tohoku Prize, Architectural Institute of Japan for Tazawako Station

1999      ar+d, Architectural Review, UK for Paper Church            ar+d賞 Architectural Review

1999      4th International Festival for Architecture in Video by IMAGE, Italy

1999      Architecture for Humanity Design Award for Paper Log House

2000      The Augustus Saint-Gaudens Award from the Cooper Union, NY

2000      Akademie der Kunste (Berlin Art Award), Germany

2001      Nikkei New Office Award, for GC Osaka Building

2001      Time Magazine Innovator of the Year

2001      World Architecture Awards 2001: Europe Category, Public/Cultural Category for the Japan Pavilion

2001      Gengo Matsui Award for the Japan Pavilion

2001      The Prize of Japan Society for Finishing Technology, for GC Osaka Building

2002      World Architecture Awards 2002: Best House in the World, Naked House

2004      Grande Medaille France Academie d’Architecture

2005      Thomas Jefferson Medalist in Architecture

2005      Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture

2005      AIA New York Chapter Design Awards-Project Honors: Nomadic Museum-NY

2007      MIPIM Awards 2007:Residential Developments 1st Prize, Kirinda Project, Sri Lanka

2007      MIPIM Awards 2007:Special Tribute, Kirinda Project, Sri Lanka

2008      Urban Land Institute Awards for Excellence: Finalist, Kirinda Project, Sri Lanka

2009      Japan Project International Award, Student Jury’s Award: Chengdu Hualin Elementary School, China

2009      Grand Prize of AIJ 2009: Nicolas G. Hayek Center

2010      International Architecture Awards, Chicago Athenaeum of Architecture and Design, European Center Architecture Art Design; Haesley Nine Bridges Golf Clubhouse

2010      International Prize for Sustainable Architecture, Gold Medal, Haesley Nine Bridges Golf Clubhouse

2010      L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France (le grade d’officier)

2011      Design for Asia Awards, Grand Award -Paper Partition System

2011      Design for Asia Awards, Gold Award -Paper Partition System

2011      Auguste Perret Prize

2011      L’Ordre National du Merite, France (le grade d’officier)

2012      Mainich Art Prize

2012      Art Prize from Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs

2012      KALMANI Prize 2012, Mexico City          (メキシコシティ)

2013      Elle Décor Design Award 2013, Wall Covering -Module H, Hermès Maison

2013      iF Design Award -lamp Yumi, Fontana Arte

2014      Good Design Award -lamp Yumi, Fontana Arte

2014      The Pritzker Architecture Prize                

2014      Joie de Vivre Award

2014      Kyoto City Artistic and Cultural Commendations, Sparkle Grand Award

2014      L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France (le grade de commandeur)

2014      Asia Game Changers Awards (Asia Society, NY)

2015      The Asahi Prize

2015      Crystal Award (World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland)

2015      Shigemitsu Award

2015      Posey Leadership Award









EXPO 2000