December 12, 2007

Featured designer: Shigeru Ban

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is famed for his cardboard constructions, but he didn't come into biodegradable architecture on purpose; he just fell into it, well, naturally. Offering to help the UN with refugee housing in Rwanda, he discovered that metal posts meant to hold up houses were instead being sold for cash; cardboard tubes, on the other hand, had no monetary value, so they would stay put indefinitely. Since then, he's adapted the idea with technology, making the tubes in different sizes and waterproofing them, and for his latest cardboard project -- a bridge! in France! -- he used a new material called ProFi, assembled from paper and plastic left over from the manufacture of self-adhesive labels.

Ban wins our undying love for his concern not only for the environment, but also for aiding the helpless, constructing temporary refugee housing time and again. Interviewed in the Washington Post, he declared, "For me, making a house for the rich or a victim of disaster is the same," he says. "I get the same satisfaction."

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