Last month we reported on the development of a new emergency shelter designed by Shigeru Ban to aid those who fell victim to the devastating earthquakes and tsunami in Japan. The world-renowned architect, who called for donations from the public to launch the initiative, has finally begun to see his efforts come to fruition. With a cost of just $300 to produce each partition, the system is a simple construction made from paper tubes of three different diameters — large for columns, medium for beams, and small for joints — that connect without the need for additional parts. White canvas sheets are attached to the frame and are held together with safety pins to provide privacy in each 161-square foot unit.
Concerned about the ongoing stresses that would come with being displaced from their homes, Ban knew that while evacuation centers were providing a safe refuge to Japanese citizens, they would also become crowded with little provision for privacy. In response, he devised a curtained partition system that could provide some relief to the individuals – an important point, as they will likely have to wait months before the government-built relief homes are completed.
In late March, the architect teamed up with his students from Tokyo and headed to several evacuation centers in Japan with the system. Manufactured and sourced in Japan, the units can be delivered quickly and directly to the relief centers, where Ban’s students work with local residents to assemble the partitions. Though authorities at some shelters placed orders to cover nursery and changing rooms only, others have asked one apiece for each of the families they are housing.
The entire project has been funded exclusively by donations from around the world, and even in the face of a backing shortage, Ban is not deterred. As the architect told Architectural Record, “I have to continue to build [partition systems], as many as are needed. The money will come later.”