Japanese architect’s Kobe Paper Log House on display in Vancouver


Eric Friederickson, public arts manager for the City of Vancouver speaking at the opening of the exhibit Photo Melissa Shaw

The Vancouver Art Gallery is displaying a full-size version of the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban’s Kobe Paper Log House at its offsite location at 1100 West Georgia Street.

VAG director Kathleen S. Bartels says the Kobe Paper Log House was designed to provide shelter for people that lost their homes after a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit the coast of Japan in 1995. “This very simple building has become the prototype of similar disaster relief structures built around the world over the past 20 years.”

The walls surrounding the Kobe Paper Log House document Ban’s ongoing design work to provide housing for disaster relief projects in various countries including Turkey, India, the Philippines and Kenya.

Photo Melissa Shaw

He earned the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2014 and the Mother Theresa Award in 2017 for his work. The disaster relief houses are made out of sustainable local materials including paper tubes, milk crates and wood.

“Based in a city known as a hub for green design and architecture, where the threat of an earthquake remains integral to building choices, the gallery invites visitors to see up-close this remarkable work of sustainable design that has improved the lives of so many,” says Bartels.

Just blocks away in Coal Harbour, construction on Ban’s timber-framed 19-storey residential tower called Terrace House is underway. The building’s developer, PortLiving, says it will be the tallest hybrid timber structure in the world and is slated for completion in 2020.

Ban was born in Tokyo in 1957 and attended the Southern California Institute of Architecture then the Cooper Union School of Architecture where he met his New York partner Dean Maltz. Shigeru Ban Architects was established in Tokyo in 1985.

Ban proposed his design for paper-tube shelters to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees after he discovered that two million refugees from the 1994 Rwandan Civil War were forced to live in appalling conditions and was hired as a consultant.

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Melissa is a reporter at Vancouver Is Awesome and has worked primarily in radio and online media. She grew up in Ontario, went to school in Halifax and worked in Northern B.C. before moving to Vancouver. If you've got a story to share email: melissa@vancouverisawesome.com