Following on from Tadao Ando, the A to Z of Expo Architects continues with another Japanese Pritzker laureate: Shigeru Ban.

A pioneer in the development of temporary buildings for disaster victims, Ban teamed up with Frei Otto to create a unique pavilion for Japan at World Expo 2000 Hannover: one of the world’s largest paper-tube structures.

Providing an exhibition space of over 3,000m2, the pavilion was formed by a grid membrane structure made from recycled cardboard tubes up to only 12.5cm wide and up to 40 metres in length. One of Ban’s main aims for the pavilion was the use of low-tech construction methods, leading to the use of simple tape joints, a fixed timber frame and a roof membrane made from a specially-made material that was both waterproof and recyclable.

The resulting pavilion – a mostly paper building spanning 72 metres long by 35 metres wide – was exemplary for its use of materials and for its recyclability. In line with the theme of Expo 2000 – “Man, Nature, Technology” – the pavilion’s design, construction, use and dismantling were achieved with minimal impact on the environment. Even the pavilion’s foundations were reusable, as Ban opted for sand-filled steel boxes rather than concrete.

Beyond the Expo, the Japan pavilion was a significant leap forward for architecture using wood-based materials. The pioneering structural trials and tests necessary for its realisation had a lasting impact on the use of paper/cardboard as a construction material, notably leading to Ban’s Paper Arch – avoiding a wooden frame altogether - in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

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