Shigeru Ban: The Paper Log House

The Glass House, Shigeru Ban Architects (SBA), and The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union announce the completion of Shigeru Ban: The Paper Log House at The Glass House. Students from The Cooper Union joined in erecting the structure through a unique opportunity offered this semester for the university’s Building Technology course. The collaborative installation will be on display April 15th through December 15th 2024 for The Glass House’s more than 13,000 annual visitors.

Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban and led by SBA’s New York office, the construction process involved guiding 39 architecture students on fabricating and assembling the Paper Log House, a 13.5 foot by 13.5-foot enclosure made of paper tubes, wood, and milk crates. The Paper Log House has been deployed to provide temporary housing for victims of disaster across five continents over the last 30 years. Dean Maltz, Managing Partner for SBA’s projects in America, graduated from The Cooper Union with Shigeru Ban. He has seen the foundational ideas and seminal works of the prolific architect take shape. Dean oversaw the process of constructing the Paper Log House from beginning to end, together with The Glass House and The Cooper Union.

Starting at The Cooper Union in Manhattan, The Paper Log House components were fabricated at the school over a period of 5 weeks, then transported by truck to the site in New Canaan. On March 18 and 19, 2024, under strong wind conditions and bitter cold temperatures, 17 students, faculty, and SBA staff assembled the structure in just fifteen hours over the two-day period.

Born out of his desire to not make waste, Shigeru Ban’s experiments with paper tubes began in 1985, and, since then, he has pioneered paper tube construction, elevating the humble material through installations, buildings, and disaster relief projects. Many relief projects, such as the 79-foot-tall Cardboard Cathedral in 2013, have gone on to become permanent fixtures in their communities. Exhibiting Shigeru Ban: The Paper Log House at The Glass House creates a unique opportunity to reflect on the permanence of architecture, and how disparate building materials, namely glass, brick and paper offer unexpected possibilities. Ban famously noted, “If a building is loved, it becomes permanent.”

Kirsten Reoch, Executive Director at The Glass House, said, “We are thrilled to present the work of Shigeru Ban Architects at The Glass House on our 75th anniversary. When the Glass House and Brick House were completed in 1949, Philip Johnson was just at the beginning of what would become an expansive campus filled with structures that continually pushed boundaries in design and materials over the course of more than 50 years. The Paper Log House continues this ethos of experimentation and innovation, turning Ban’s creative energy toward the solution of urgent social problems with recyclable and easily available materials.”

Known for his innovative use of paper and wood, architect, educator, and humanitarian Shigeru Ban [b. 1957] originally designed the Paper Log House in 1995 as a shelter for former Vietnamese refugees displaced by the Great Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe, Japan. Designed to be low cost and easy to assemble, Ban utilized paper tubes as the house’s primary building material because they are readily available, economical, and sustainable nearly anywhere in the world.

One of the world’s top architectural destinations, The Glass House welcomes an audience of more than 13,000 visitors every year from Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, France, Japan, Italy, Germany, and Brazil, among others.

In creating buildings that are meaningful to and cared for by their communities, Shigeru Ban’s inventive work alongside The Glass House, challenges preconceived notions of permanence and material strength. Visitors will be able to consider the value of both historic preservation and permanence in glass and brick juxtaposed with temporary, recyclable, and movable structures made of paper and cardboard. In today’s world of mass migration, due to conflict and natural disasters, the public can see a simple solution for aiding those in need of immediate shelter.

This exhibition is made possible in part with support from The Japan Foundation, New York, and Kentucky Owl. Special thanks to Shigeru Ban, Dean Maltz, Vittorio Lovato, and Le Yang of Shigeru Ban Architects (SBA) and the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture students through Professor Samuel Anderson’s Building Technology class Arch135B.

In Da Monsta throughout the 2024 season, a didactic exhibition and time-lapse video documenting the students’ fabrication and assemblage of The Paper Log House will be on view.

Project Facts:

Site: 25 Ft. x 25 Ft. Compacted Gravel
Area: 182.5 Sq. Ft.
Size: Plan – 13’6” x 13’-6”
Height – 11’-7”
Materials: 39 Milk Crates, 156 Paper Tubes, Plywood, Roof Membrane

Shigeru Ban Architects (SBA) is a global architecture and design firm renowned for its innovative work with timber, paper, and bamboo structures. Founded and led by Pritzker Laureate Shigeru Ban in 1985, SBA has three offices in Tokyo, New York, and Paris, and a team of 80, with more than 160 projects constructed across six continents. In 2022, in collaboration with Rizzoli, SBA released Shigeru Ban: Timber in Architecture showcasing over 35 mass timber projects built in the 21st century. In the United States, SBA has overseen the design and construction of Metal Shutter Houses in Chelsea, New York City (2011); Aspen Art Museum in the Rocky Mountains (2014); the adaptive reuse of a historic commercial building into Cast Iron House in Tribeca, New York City (2021); and a store façade for Tiffany & Co Palo Alto (2023). Currently, SBA’s New York office is leading projects in Florida, Utah, Kentucky, and British Columbia. Globally, SBA has a wide range of projects under construction including Ukraine’s largest hospital in Lviv; Blue Ocean Dome, the main pavilion for the Expo 2025 Osaka in Japan; and nine hybrid mass timber residential buildings as part of the Nieuw Zuid Master plan in Belgium, among others. Among SBA’s projects in design stages is the recently announced Infinite Maldives, a five-acre 44-villa “resort residence” located within the Malé Atoll and designed to embrace the Maldivian vernacular.

Shigeru Ban is the founder of Shigeru Ban Architects (SBA), one of the world’s leading architecture firms and a pioneer in advancing the field of wood and mass timber design and construction. He studied architecture at Cooper Union in New York City before returning to Tokyo to establish SBA in 1985. In 1995, his practice expanded beyond client-driven commissions with the establishment of VAN – Voluntary Architects’ Network, an NGO through which he provides humanitarian relief projects in response to a wide array of disasters from hurricanes and earthquakes to war. Shigeru is dedicated to teaching the next generation of architects. For 30 years he taught at universities in Japan and the United States. In 2014, Shigeru Ban received the Pritzker Prize, the world’s highest honor in architecture. He has also received L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, The National Order of the Legion of Honor in France; the Princess of Asturias Award for Concord; the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture; the Peter Cooper Public Service Award; and the Mother Teresa Award for Social Justice.

VAN-Voluntary Architects’ Network is motivated by the belief that knowledge and skills of an architect should not be limited to designing only for the privileged. Shigeru Ban’s global humanitarian work began in 1994, when he applied his understanding of paper tubes as an ideal recyclable, lightweight, and inexpensive structural material to refugee housing in Rwanda for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Through VAN, Ban applies his extensive expertise in recyclable materials, often deploying paper tube structures to provide low-cost buildings for victims of disaster. In each project, careful attention is paid to the lifecycle of both materials and resultant building. Since its founding, the organization has provided temporary housing, community centers, concert halls, and elementary schools, as well as triage and care centers. Recent and current humanitarian works are underway in Hawaii, Japan, Kentucky, Morocco, Syria, Turkey, and Ukraine, among others.