(Reuters) - Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, noted for his airy modernist designs and humanitarian work, has won the 2014 Pritzker Architecture Prize, the top award in the field, organizers said on Monday.
Ban, 56, is the second consecutive architect from Japan to win the $100,000 prize, and the third architect in the past five years from the country as well. Last year’s winner was Toyo Ito.
The Pritzker Architecture Prize was created by the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy, in 1979 to honor the world’s most innovative architects.
Ban is perhaps best distinguished for his breezy, economical designs such as the Center Pompidou museum in Metz, France, with its undulating white roof supported by wooden latticework. His works are known for using low-cost materials that are often locally sourced.
“Shigeru Ban is a force of nature, which is entirely appropriate in the light of his voluntary work for the homeless and dispossessed in areas that have been devastated by natural disasters,” Peter Palumbo, Pritzker jury chairman, said in a statement.
“But he also ticks the several boxes for qualification to the Architectural Pantheon - a profound knowledge of his subject with a particular emphasis on cutting-edge materials and technology; total curiosity and commitment; endless innovation; an infallible eye; an acute sensibility - to name but a few,” Palumbo added.
Ban, who said he was greatly influenced by the simplicity and efficiency of Japanese carpentry, has also devoted much of designs to humanitarian efforts, including shelter for people displaced by conflicts or disasters.
He first designed shelters from low-cost and reusable items, often in the form of paper tubes, for refugees of the 1994 conflict in Rwanda and also for those affected by the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan.
The Pritzker jury cited the works as “simple, dignified, low-cost, recyclable shelters and community buildings for the disaster victims.”
“When I started working this way, almost 30 years ago, nobody was talking about the environment,” Ban said in the statement. “But this way of working came naturally to me.”
The jury also cited Ban’s 1995 Curtain Wall House in Tokyo and Naked House completed in 2000 in Saitama, Japan, as exemplary works of his simple and airy designs.
He will be awarded the prize at a June ceremony at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.
Past winners of the award include British-Iraqi Zaha Hadid, Netherlands’ Rem Koolhaas and France’s Jean Nouvel.
Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Richard Chang