In 2014 the most important prize in the world of architecture, the Pritzker Prize, was awarded to the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. He designed the Centre-Pompidou-Metz and the beautiful Curtain Wall House in Tokio, but also a number of buildings made out of paper, cardboard and other perishable materials. These buildings were designed to be cheap, to be constructed fast, to last a while and then to me dismantled. This article’s main photo (© Bridgit Anderson via www.shigerubanarchitects.com) shows the cardboard cathedral that Ban designed for the people of Christchurch in New Zealand, a town that was almost destroyed after an earthquake. Maybe now thanks to the worldwide appreciation of Ban’s oeuvre, more people will start recognizing the outstanding quality and aesthetics of temporary constructions, like these five:
1) Paper church, Shigeru Ban (1995)
This church made out of paper is just one of many temporary constructions made by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. The buildings we’re talking about are, in most cases, designed to accommodate refugees and victims of natural disasters. Ban uses his talent as an architect to help people in need, and this was surely one of the reasons why he was awarded the prestigious Pritzkerprize in 2014. Ban’s first humanitarian project dates back to 1994. In that year millions of refugees in Rwanda, who were trying to escape the atrocious genocide that took place in their home country, were forced to live in terrible conditions. Ban designed emergency houses made from paper tubes for them, and was appointed consultant of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. After that he also devoted his time and talent for the benefit of the victims of the earthquake in Kobe, Japan, more specifically of the Vietnamese refugees, for whom he thought up the ‘Paper Log House’: he made walls out of vertically lined up cardboard tubes and a foundation of beer crates filled with sandbags. The church was never meant to last and so it was indeed broken down after a while. Luckily this beautiful construction, which, like Ban’s other designs, is a gracious space with lots of light, has been rebuilt in 2008, in Taiwan. Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai via www.pritzkerprize.com, where you can discover Ban's oeuvre. Also check www.shigerubanarchitects.com.
2) Futuro, Matti Suuronen (1968)
The Futuro is an icon of the optimistic architecture of the sixties. This futuristic looking capsule was originally designed as a lodge for a ski area in Finland, but the (Finnish) architect and many other believers in progress felt that the Futuro could grow to be thé readymade house of the future. Using a helicopter, the owner could plant the cottage anywhere he wanted in a few hours. The flat ellipsoid (a technical term for an object that looks more or less like a flying saucer) is 4 metres high and 8 metres across and is primarily made out of plastic. Because of that, the Futuro is a typical product of the era it was made in. Plastic was indeed the favourite material of pop culture designers in the sixties; think about the Bubble chair by Eero Arnio, the Boby Trolley by Joe Colombo or the original Panton chair. However plastic is also a material that isn’t strong enough to stand the test of time: it’s at its best when it’s new, and as soon as it ages, it starts to look hade, dingy and brittle, and cracks might appear. That’s why the Futuro turned out to be a temporary object (or construction) which was never put into mass production, like it was meant to be. Presumably about 60 Futuros were made in Finland and the US, and none of those is still used as a cottage. The prototype has been acquired by the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen; at the moment it’s stored in the depot. Photo: www.boijmans.nl.
3) Bridge, Gijs Van Vaerenbergh (2014)
The Belgian architect duo Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh have made a name for themselves with their ‘Reading Between the Lines’ project, a see-through church made out of stacked steel plates that was built in the Belgian village of Borgloon as a part of the ‘pit’ art project. The church situates itself somewhere between architecture and design, and that’s also the case for the temporary bridge Gijs and Van Vaerenbergh designed in 2014. This installation was built using a mobile crane and parts of a tower crane for the Kanal Playground Festival which took place in the Brussels canal zone from 19 tot 21 September. The bridge formed a connection the two sides of the canal, close to the Tour & Taxis site, on the exact location where, somewhere in the future, there will be a permanent bridge for trams, bikers and pedestrians. The temporary bridge was functional and at the same time it was a symbol of the possibilities of rapid interventions to bring about changes on an urban scale. Photo by Jeroen Verrecht via www.gijsvanvaerenbergh.com.
4) Pavilion, Toyo Ito (2002)
This slender pavilion by Japanese architect Toyo Ito, key concepts in whose work are transience and fragility, has stirred up a quite some controversy in Bruges and in Flanders. It was meant to stay put for two years but because it took politicians ages to discuss and quarrel about the demolition, it was only broken down in 2013. At that point the pavilion had been neglected for several years, it was damaged and weathered (the floor of the bridge had collapsed under the weight of a forklift). A sad state for a pavilion that once symbolised the ambition of Bruges to connect the historical character of the city with its contemporary position, after being World Culture City 2002. It was indeed a strong architectural statement on the exact location were Bruges is said to have been born, the Burg. With the help of innovative techniques and with pure architectural lines, Ito created a light aluminium structure with a pond and a bridge. It is an image not only of lightness and progress but also of transience and evolution. Because of it’s archictectural 2008 it was isted as a protected monument, after vehement discussion between various authorities, but, as said, in 2013 the city council was given the freedom to demolish the building and rearrange the square. Photo: www.toyo-ito.co.jp.
5) Olympic Shooting Ranges, Magma Architecture (2012)
The three shooting ranges for the Olympics in London of 2012 were designed to be dismantled as soon as the Olympics would be over. (By the way, that was the case for most of the buildings and stadiums that were built for this event – only six of those were designed to be permanent.) The fact that their work wouldn’t last, is exactly what inspired the German architects of Magma Architecture to come up with an eye-catching design, so that the even if the ranges themselves wouldn’t last, they would make a lasting impression on visitors and on the locals of Woolwich, the London suburb where the ranges were located. And it worked: all three ranges (one for the 10, 25 and 50 metres competition) were made of fresh, sparkling white and flexible pvc-membranes, with bright colourful holes in them. The architects were inspired by the shooting sport itself – they wanted their design to remind people of the flowing movement and the precision of a shot – and for that they were awarded a AIA UK Excellence in Design Award for Best Temporary Building. Photo: magmaarchitecture.com.
___ Text: Hadewijch Ceulemans