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Jetlagged Shigeru Ban Discusses Cardboard Shelters and Beer Crates At New Yorker Festival

Back in August, architect, cardboard extraordinaire, and Cooper Union alum Shigeru Ban's Metal Shutter penthouse sold for a cool $11.45 million. Ban, who spoke on Sunday at the New Yorker Festival, revealed that the luxury condominium's large metal mesh shutters were inspired by the sliding fronts of bodegas, and function as handy mosquito nets (practical!). But the architect had lots more to discuss outside of luxury condo windows in Chelsea. Arriving from New Zealand–where he's building a massive cathedral–Saturday night, a sleepy Ban powered through the hour and a half-long talk, touching on life's essentials: beer, cardboard, and happiness.

The architect's cardboard-constructed temporary habitats for refugees and disaster victims typically use locally sourced plastic crates as foundations, Ban decided to try out beer crates for his paper log house project in Rwanda. He went on to say that although the beer manufacturer donated plenty of 'em, the crates were empty. The architect lamented, "We were very disappointed. We thought the crates were coming with beer in them." What a bummer, seriously.

On lasting design, Ban revealed that "often my temporary structures become permanent," like the temporary houses estimated to last three years that have lasted eleven, or the paper church in Kobe that was constructed in just five weeks and used by a congregation for ten. The architect builds his houses out of cardboard tubes because they're recyclable, cheap, quick to build, and easy to source locally. And since cardboard is well, cardboard, its price hardly ever increases; so when a natural disasters hit and the cost of building materials surge, cardboard hops in to save the day.

Wrapping up his talk, Ban admitted to spending most of his time working with sustainable design, devoting his architectural energy to disaster victims. "When I saw the devastation in Rwanda or Kobe, I thought I could do something." The architect, aware these kinds of projects are unpopular and underfunded, doesn't care about the money. His final words at the festival: "It doesn't matter whether I'm paid or not, as long as I get happy faces from people."
· Metal Shutter Houses coverage [Curbed]
· Shigeru Ban Tapped to Design Massive Cardboard Cathedral [Curbed National]