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Shigeru Ban – Architect/Patent Holder

A week or so ago I learned that Shigeru Ban, a Japanese architect that I happened to represent in the late Nineties on a couple of US patent applications, had been awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The award was given to Mr. Ban’s based on his innovative use of materials and his dedication to humanitarian aspects of architecture. He was especially noted for using paper tubes as structural architectural members (similar to the cores of paper towel rolls or toilet paper rolls, but much bigger and more robust, more like the cores for rolls of newsprint). He had used paper tube construction recently for a 240-foot long exhibition hall in Hanover, Germany and more recently had constructed the “Cardboard Cathedral” in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Paper tubing is especially attractive for emergency shelters, as it is more available and much less expensive than traditional building materials, and less subject to pilferage than steel, wood or brick.
In the mid to late 1990s, I was able to obtain two US Patents for Mr. Ban. One of these is Pat. No. 5,729,932 for “Structural Furniture” where built-in furniture, i.e., cabinets and closets, form the load bearing walls of a building. This can facilitate construction of pre-fab housing units. The other patent I got for Mr. Ban was U.S. Pat. 6,085,484, titled “Building Structure”, which is the patent that is directed to the technique of using paper tubes as structural members. There are a lot of details in the specification of that patent, so I would conclude that Mr. Ban had given quite a bit of thought to that process before we applied for his patent.
Shigeru Ban has an architectural partner for the U.S., Dean Maltz Architects, in New York. They had contacted me about the patent. I have not seen paper tube architecture used in this country, though, perhaps due to requirements of our building codes.
It is always a good thing when a client I have represented actually excels, like Shigeru Ban has done. The Pritzker Prize is quite an achievement.