The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

Displaced by choice, architect comes to aid of compatriots displaced by fate

The word “displaced” connotes being forcibly removed from one’s home or homeland. Fleeing from war or natural disaster, displaced people have little in common with the expats we encounter at the Displaced Nation, most of whom have voluntarily chosen a life of displacement and adventure.

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban belongs in the tradition of Japanese fashion designers and other creative people who have chosen to live outside their native land, gravitating to artistic enclaves in Paris or Manhattan.

But if Ban is displaced by choice, he does not hesitate to help his countrymen who’ve been displaced by fate. When an earthquake struck Kobe in 1995, Ban was there, building emergency housing for survivors with beer-crate foundations and walls made of recycled cardboard paper tubes. (The paper tube is a Ban speciality. He got the idea of using paper tubes after observing the solidity of rolls of fax paper and experimenting with the idea for several years.)

And now Ban is in Japan again, lending a helping hand to those made homeless by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. He is building simple partitions to place between families who have been evacuated to gymnasiums and other large-roof facilities. He hopes that by enjoying more privacy, they will experience greater peace of mind.

Ban prides himself on the ability to work quickly and well when the exigency of circumstances demands it. Asked in a March 24 New York Times interview to comment on why in the wake of disaster, innovative ideas designers present for shelters never get built, he said:

We don’t need innovative ideas. We just need to build normal things that can be made easily and quickly. A house is a house.

And if you’re lucky enough to land in one of Ban’s shelters, it’s a house that brings you one step closer to having a home again.

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