SHIGERU BAN

Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is a champion of disaster relief, pioneering the use of temporary paperchip and shipping container shelters, and balancing pro bono projects with commercial work. As an inspiring show at Sydney's Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF) explores his humanitarian structures, we met this maverick talent.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What's your design philosophy?
Problem-solving. Problems solved by design.

What inspired you to get involved with disaster relief?
I was tired of working for privileged people who had money and power. I like to design monuments, but I was quite disappointed that I was mainly working for privileged people, not the general public. Earthquakes don't kill people, but building materials do. I saw the very poor condition of temporary housing after natural and man-made disasters, and I thought I could improve the condition of these facilities. For me there is no difference between my pro bono and commercial work because I have the same interest and energy for both, and I get the same satisfaction. 

What materials intrigue you?
I use any materials available locally, such as paperchip – not paper by itself – which exists anywhere in the world, and is cheap, strong and lightweight. Even when I was working in Rwanda I found a paperchip factory in the capital Kigali. I'm especially interested in humble materials. If say I used steel, it's a wonderful material, you can do anything with it, but wood and paper have many more limitations. I'm interested in designing with the limitations of the material. Paper is interesting because it's lighter and weaker. I like to take advantage of the weakness of this material to make something different. 

TOP: Japanese architect Shigeru Ban
ABOVE: Ban's Cardboard Cathedral for Christchurch, New Zealand, was built as a community gathering space after the 2011 earthquake devastated the city's historic stone cathedral (see our earlier post). An interactive model of it forms part of Sydney exhibition 'The Inventive Work of Shigeru Ban, SCAF Projects 34 & 35'

What's next for you in terms of disaster relief?
I don't know, I hope I won't be busy! My goal is to make buildings that will be demolished. Shelters that will be dismantled after six months, with materials that can be recycled and reused after, with no waste. The problem is people don't want to move out of my temporary houses, so many of them are becoming permanent!

So is the line blurring between permanent and temporary buildings?
Concrete can be very temporary if developers get rid of it, whereas paper structures can be permanent as long as people love them, like my emergency cathedral for Christchurch. I would like to continue building monuments to be loved by people. Besides, beauty doesn’t come from the kind of material you use, it comes from the proportions. Creating light, shadow, natural ventilation and space between inside and outside are what make living conditions beautiful. 

ABOVE: Two original-scale reproductions of Ban's emergency structures occupy SCAF's Courtyard Garden. His paper log houses for Kobe, Japan (1995), and Ecuador (2016-ongoing) were designed in response to earthquakes and cost around US$2,000 a unit to build. Note the care taken to match the sandbag-filled, donated beer crate bases to the huts

After designing France's Centre Pompidou-Metz in 2010, your Paris concert hall La Scene Musicale was unveiled in April. Tell us more.
It was a former factory site on the Île Seguin. They wanted the design to be a symbol for the western gateway of Paris. I'm not the kind of person to develop unusual shapes. For me it's very challenging to design something iconic and monumental. I made a sail of solar panels, which rotates around a curved timber-clad auditorium, following the sun. Mosaic tiles inside the concert hall change colour from green to red.

What's currently exciting you in design or style?
Nothing new comes out anymore. Generally speaking, architects don't like inventing. People are afraid to be sued. If you do something innovative or experimental you can be sued very easily, especially in the United States. Now everyone's competing with different, funny shapes, which can be created by computer easily. They're interesting, but it's not innovative technology.

Any ideas for a solution to affordable urban housing?
I don't know why this is a problem because there are so many ideas to make affordable housing – as long as developers don't mind making less profit! It's not about creating tiny houses, it's about the construction method. Even with the same space we can make a comfortable house inexpensively. But cities are no longer being designed by urban planners or the government, now commercial developers are leading the way.

ABOVE: Installation details of SCAF's Kobe shelter, which features thick paper tubes for walls, lined with insulation and topped off with tent material; The Ecuador house teams paper tube walls with green-hued bamboo sheets, plus a thatched roof. Both eco-friendly units include toilets, and are easy to dismantle or recycle

Where or how do you find inspiration?
I don't suddenly get inspired by other things. I just continue developing my original ideas to the next stage, little by little. Rather than keeping an eye on cutting-edge trends or magazines, I'm just busy developing my own stuff, as I don't want to be influenced by others.

Who are your design heroes?
Buckminster Fuller and Frei Otto. I like architects who invent their own material or structural system, because I hate to be influenced by the fashionable styles of the day. They both invented their own systems to design things according to the material. I was lucky to collaborate with Otto on my Japan Pavilion for Hanover's Expo 2000 and I learned a lot from him. He always tried to use the minimum material and minimum energy to make maximum space. My favourite architect though is Alvar Aalto. I designed an Aalto exhibition in Tokyo in 1986, but didn't want to waste precious wood for a temporary space. That's when I discovered that paperchip, made of recycled paper which I turned into a tube, was much stronger that I'd expected and inexpensive.

ABOVE: Inside, the SCAF exhibition features scale models, videos, and examples of building joints and partition systems developed by Ban for his temporary shelters; A model details the interior of the emergency cathedral for Christchurch, New Zealand, including bespoke furniture; Another showcases the sinuous roof of Ban's Japan Pavilion for Hanover's Expo 2000, a collaboration with late German architect Frei Otto

Where's on your travel wish list?
I love travelling... to enjoy the local food and wine. That's why I love coming to Australia! I commute every week between Tokyo and Paris, where I have offices. Usually I travel at weekends, so as not to waste the week days.

What should a design fan see in Tokyo?
I would recommend going to Kyoto instead. In Tokyo most of the buildings are designed by big firms, who aren't usually very good architects, so they're boring. It's the same for most major cities, whereas Kyoto has many interesting innovations. It's a more traditional town, and making buildings was so difficult in the past that you needed great ideas and craftsmanship.

What's your social media of choice?
I don't do it at all. Does my office use Instagram? I don't know!
shigerubanarchitects.com  sherman-scaf.org.au

'The Inventive Work of Shigeru Ban' is at Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, 16-20 Goodhope Street, Paddington, Sydney until 1 July 2017 (open 11am-5pm, Wednesday to Saturday)

Pictures: Brett Boardman (SCAF)

KELVIN HO Akin Creative

Kelvin Ho copy.jpg

Award-winning Sydney architect and designer Kelvin Ho made his name with minimal yet striking interiors for some of Australia's best fashion stores, including Belinda, Bassike, Dion Lee, Incu, sass & bide and Willow. He's also a regular collaborator with Sydney bar/restaurant innovators Merivale, working on hit recent venues Coogee Pavilion and The Paddington with more irons in the fire. 

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

Akin Creative has worked on fashion stores, bars and restaurants, and residential spaces. Do you wear different hats for these projects or do they all draw on the same aesthetic?
Working on such a wide range of projects lets us constantly test new ideas and designs. I wear a different hat for each Akin Creative project as the structure of each commission is quite varied and I feel we create better solutions when each project is treated as unique.

How do you describe your design philosophy?
I would describe my philosophy as a cross between A Tribe Called Quest, Bob Dylan and Chet Baker

ABOVE RIGHT: Sydney architect/designer Kelvin Ho of Akin Creative; Ho working on minimal sets for the Australian Ballet
BELOW: Beachy timbers, bespoke details and geometric tiles at Manly Wharf restaurant Papi Chulo in Sydney, which embraces the outdoors

Your interiors for Merivale’s Sydney restaurants and bars have been inspiring. What are your favourite projects with them?
Each Merivale project is special in its own right, but my top three would be the Coogee Pavilion and Coogee Pavilion Rooftop at Coogee Beach for its sheer size and the impact it had on the community; Papi Chulo in Manly because we were able to design some amazing bespoke elements; and Ms.G’s in Potts Point, which was my first and one of the most fun.

What’s it like collaborating with their team?
It’s a true collaboration with Merivale as a client. Chief creatives Justin and his sister Bettina Hemmes are heavily involved in each decision. We spend a few days each week together working through the designs, which makes it a really organic process.

ABOVE FROM TOP: Buzzy four-storey mod-Asian restaurant Ms.G's in Potts Point teams neon with street art; beachfront Coogee Pavilion's airy industrial-chic interiors and grand scale have transformed the Coogee scene, with a family-friendly ground-floor and rooftop cocktails
BELOW FROM LEFT: Style collaborators Amanda Talbot, Merivale's Bettina and Justin Hemmes, and Akin Creative's Emilie Delalande and Kelvin Ho have worked on a bunch of Merivale hot spots, with more to come

Tell us about your recent Merivale project The Paddington. And the style directions for upcoming launches The Newport and Queen Chow?
The Paddington, on Paddington’s Oxford Street, brings together a bar, restaurant and pub under one roof. It was inspired by a classic butchery complete with cool rooms. Typical to Merivale venues, the journey through The Paddington is tactile and connected to the food and produce on offer. The kitchen is a focal point with three rotisseries and double-height custom copper range hoods. Without giving too much away, The Newport (in the Northern Beaches) and Queen Chow (the former Queen Victoria Hotel in Sydney's inner-west Enmore) are very different projects. The Newport is all about sunshine and the outdoors whereas Queen Chow is more urban and moody.

What’s next for you work wise?
We have lots of hospitality and retail projects in the pipeline. All the projects and clients we work with are amazing. We recently finished a new Maldives resort, on Baa Atoll, called Amilla Fushi.

Where do you get inspiration?
My inspiration is pretty broad – anything from nature, music, art, cinema or philosophy can be an influence. Generally, a really small detail that catches my eye can be a big inspiration.

ABOVE: Industrial goes coastal: Akin Creative's sleek interiors for new surfwear store Saturdays NYC in Bondi

What’s currently exciting you in design or style?
The ballet. I recently worked with the Australian Ballet on set design for a new production 'Filigree & Shadow', part of three-piece '20:21’. Being able to collaborate with such an artistic company was incredible – working with dancers was a really different way of designing for me. 

ABOVE: Akin Creative's sculptural set designs for the Australian Ballet's '20:21' dance performance

Who are your design heroes?
Italian designer Gio Ponti, American artist Donald Judd and Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi

Is Sydney a big influence on you? And where’s on your travel wish list?
Yes, I was born in Sydney so I know it really well. It’s a big influence as it balances the intensity of the city with the laid-back culture of the beaches and harbour. My travel wish list is generally anywhere with good bars or snow. Ideally both. 

What’s your social media of choice?
Instagram! Follow us at @akincreative.
akincreative.com

Kelvin Ho will join speakers Justin and Bettina Hemmes and stylist Amanda Talbot at 'Style Me Merivale', a design talk on Monday 7 March 2016 at Sydney's Ivy Ballroom (6.30pm until late). Hosted by Vogue Living's Editor-in-Chief Neale Whitaker as part of the 'March into Merivale' season, it will be an inspiring insight into the styling secrets of the Merivale team and its exciting upcoming restaurants and bars. Snap up tickets online for $45 each, including drinks on arrival. DesignFizz has a pair of tickets to give away; contact us here for a chance to win (subject Merivale, share your email).

AMANDA LEVETE

Acclaimed UK architect Amanda Levete – head of AL_A studio, and formerly of Future Systems – has created this year's MPavilion for Melbourne. A futuristic take on a forest canopy, the temporary pavilion forms a welcoming glade for all-comers, hosting a programme of 300 spring/summer events. Inspired by 2015's theme 'Architecture of Wellbeing', it's the second in a series of four pavilions bringing cutting-edge architecture to the city, a dreamy space for a sun-kissed season. 

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What inspired your MPavilion?
One of the things about the Melbourne climate is ‘four seasons in one day’, and we responded to that with our MPavilion. For me the very nature of a pavilion is that of a bandstand. I took this literally, forgetting all about walls and designing something that creates a magical quality of life. We wanted to create a sensation of a tree canopy and play with sunlight, wind and rain. We used the canopy to filter out the harshest summer sun and aimed to add the noise of wind as it passes through.

How do you hope people will use and enjoy it?
Rooting the pavilion in its parkland setting, I want to create the sensation of a forest canopy in the heart of the city that gives shelter to a programme of events. Wouldn’t it be lovely if, as dusk is falling, there are kids lounging on beanbags while an actor reads them a bedtime story? Then they'll be taken home, falling asleep, in their buggies. That sort of communal storytelling is very powerful. It’s a slightly dreamy experience.

What can temporary pavilions bring to a city, and to an architect?
The brief for MPavilion 2015 is a great opportunity to design a structure that responds to its climate and landscape. I’m interested in exploiting the temporary nature of the pavilion form to produce a design that speaks in response to the weather. What really drew me to the pavilion commission is the opportunity to do things that you could never do with a building.

What were the material or technical challenges involved?
I wanted to use a material that is translucent, incredibly lightweight and seemingly very fragile. The construction industry is a fairly slow-moving beast, but Australia has some of the finest boat builders in the world. We worked with a yacht fabricator to employ their boundary-pushing technology, to create something that looks fragile but is actually really strong. The 43 translucent resin petals are reinforced with carbon fibre strands that span up to five metres and are only three millimetres thick. Supported on slender, four-metre-high carbon fibre columns, the structure is designed to sway in the wind, with lighting and a soundscape that activates at sunset.

What are your next projects?
There’s a new Southampton centre I’m creating for UK cancer care charity Maggie’s and our expansion of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, is due to open in 2017. The Exhibition Road Building (above) will have a new entrance, a 1,500-square-metre gallery for temporary exhibitions and a courtyard all made out of porcelain.

What’s your design philosophy?
Architecture shouldn’t be about playing by the rules. It should be about challenging the brief you’re given, about breaking boundaries. Here is an artistic discipline that involves things like functionality, building codes and planning logistics; it combines everything I love. AL_A is more driven by conceptual thinking than formalism, so it’s less easy to identify an architectural style in what we do now. What binds all our projects together is a very rigorous, but intuitive, way of thinking.

Where do you get inspiration?
I love the fact that architecture is an artistic discipline with very real constraints. Size has never mattered to me. You could do something incredible in a piece of furniture. A temporary experience is almost more difficult than a permanent one. I’ve always functioned best when there’s something to push against. Whatever project I’m working on, I immerse myself in each new world. That might mean researching the culture or reading up on relevant literature. You come out of every project changed. You just learn so much.

What’s currently exciting you in design, architecture or style?
Australia is an exciting place for architecture because of the expansive landscape and what that allows for private houses. That genre has really exploded. I love the varying characteristics of different areas – for example in Melbourne, inner-north Fitzroy (first three images, above) as compared to St Kilda (above) with its proximity to the sea.

Which design era, building or interior has influenced you the most?
The Centre Pompidou in Paris (above, by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano) is one of my favourite buildings because conceptually it’s so groundbreaking. The Pompidou changed forever the way we look at museums by being fabulous and yet taking away the pomp. It also totally regenerated the area. Like the Sydney Opera House, it became a national icon recognised around the world. The value of it is incalculable. 
mpavilion.org

MPavilion is at Queen Victoria Gardens, Melbourne, opposite NGV International, from 5 October 2015 to 7 February 2016. Entry is free with a café kiosk run by Three Thousand Thieves. For more on Amanda Levete's 25XDesign project check back with the Fizz this Wednesday 7 October.

Photo credits: Amanda Levete portrait copyright Peter Guenzel; MPavilion by John Gollings; V&A copyright AL_A; Sydney Opera House at Dawn courtesy of Sydney Opera House Trust; Centre Pompidou, Fitzroy and St Kilda by Sophie Davies.