Prolific architect and Pritzker Prize recipient, Shigeru Ban has been selected as one of the winners of the Mother Teresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice. Often referred to as Architecture’s First Responder, the Japanese architect is known for his dedication to creating humanitarian designs that combine the needs of refugees with sustainability.
Established by the Harmony Foundation in 2005, the Mother Teresa award recognizes individuals and organizations that promote peace, equality and social justice. The award has been given to several notable world figures such as Sam Childers, Malala Yousafzai, and the Dalai-Lama.
Rarely has an architect been chosen for the award, but Ban’s dedication to building disaster relief shelters out of basic materials is more than deserving. Known for creating temporary structures out of repurposed materials such as his signature paper-tubes, he has built refugee housing around the world in crisis-hit areas such as Rwanda, Turkey, India, China, Haiti and Kenya.
His material of choice is often seen in his shelter designs, including the stunning cardboard Christ Cathedral, which was built after the devastating 2011 earthquake. He also used the paper tubes, as well as shipping containers, for relief housing built for the Japanese town of Onagawa in 2011.
In 2004, Ban designed 100 small homes made with earth bricks for Sri Lankan villagers displaced by a tsunami in Kirinda. And most recently, the architect worked with the UN-Habitat to build 20,000 homes for severely overcrowded refugee camp in Kenya.
Ban joins a number of deserving honorees this year such as the Hellenic rescue team, recognized for its work during the refugee crisis in Greece, and the Christian priest, Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was held captive by Islamic extremists in Yemen.