Famed architect Shigeru Ban builds quake-proof homes from rubble in Nepal

Mon Dec 28, 2015 8:17pm EST
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By Lisa Twaronite

TOKYO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - After twin earthquakes in April and May claimed 9,000 lives and left vast swathes of Nepal in ruins, survivors worried if they reused the brick rubble, they would end up with the same vulnerable, seismically unsound structures.

Renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban - who helped bring global attention to humanitarian architecture and continues to influence fellow architects and disaster-relief workers - devised a solution.

"Each disaster is different, so I have to go there to find out the particular problems to solve," said 58-year-old Ban, who built paper emergency shelters in Haiti after the 2010 quake and the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan two years ago.

The prototype for his latest humanitarian housing project in Nepal consists of standard timber door frames joined together and reinforced with plywood. The frames are filled in with brick rubble, and the roof is covered with a plastic sheet and thatched for insulation.

The resulting structure is strong enough to meet Japan's stringent earthquake standards, he said in an interview at his office in Tokyo.

"I'm hoping people will copy my design. If we make 20, some other NGO might make more. I'm encouraging people to copy my ideas. No copyrights," Ban said, noting he always tries to enlist the help of his houses' future inhabitants.

"If they're involved in the construction, if the structure needs maintenance, they will know how to do it themselves."


Japanese architect Shigeru Ban (C) shows a prototype of the Nepal House Project in Kathmandu October 19, 2015.  REUTERS/Shigeru Ban Architects/Handout via Reuters