Shigeru Ban

Paper House, Yamanashi, 1993-1995

Built on the shores of Yamanaka Lake in Yamanashi, the Paper House and its supporting cardboard structure introduced paper architecture as designed by Shigeru Ban. Cheap, light, available in a wide variety of sizes and produced from recycled paper, cardboard had never before been utilized in construction. The origin of this use stemmed from the small budget attributed to an exhibition dedicated to Alvar Aalto’s wooden furniture designs, a budget so small it had forced the architect to utilize cardboard tubes as a substitute for wood.  Pursuing his research into this material at the Tokyo Industrial and Technological center, Shigeru Ban first built the Paper Gallery and then his own house, the Paper House, approved by the Ministry of Construction. A 10 square meter plan, it is situated inside a glass skin, forming a long S shape, which at one end extends outside to form a tiny garden and bathroom and then curves back towards the virtually unfurnished interior. This arabesque, made from 110 cardboard tubes (270 cm X 28 cm), borders the square space in a sort of gallery that opens onto the central part of the universal plan, thus forming both an interior living area and a space for circulation on the exterior. Dividing the space into fluid and functional areas, the cardboard partition/screen seems to dialog with the forest of trees surrounding the house. Skillfully calculated, the interstices between the tubes filter light by materializing its pathway, injecting subtle respiration into the interior. Totally flexible, the space overlooks four white terraces, reminiscent of the tatami or verandas opening onto Japanese gardens.

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