Shigeru Ban Designs Temporary, Easy-to-Build Shelters for Disaster-Prone Areas

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By Erika Heet / Published by Dwell
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Responding to the displacement caused by Typhoon Haiyan, architect Shigeru Ban designed a series of easy-to-build prefab shelters for the Philippines.

Following Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in November 2013 and displaced three million people, architect Shigeru Ban—winner of the 2014 Pritzker Prize—quickly devised a series of temporary shelters. Though similar in construction to temporary buildings Ban has implemented in disaster-stricken areas in Japan, Turkey, New Zealand, and India, the Philippines shelters were simplified with a paper-tube-and-partition system Ban developed for making barriers for shelters inside evacuation centers. Beer and soda crates filled with sand bags make up the foundations, and the floor panels are coconut wood and plywood. The walls are made from Nypa palm thatching; the same material covers durable plastic sheets to form the ceiling and the roof. Local labor, courtesy of students from the University of San Carlos in Cebu, eliminated construction delays. "Concrete buildings can be destroyed by earthquakes, and are therefore temporary," Ban says. "If a building, even made of paper, is loved by people, it has become permanent. It’s not about material. For me there is no difference between a temporary and a permanent building."

The construction was carried out in cooperation with students from the University of San Carlos in Cebu.


Architect Shigeru Ban has designed temporary shelters for disaster-stricken areas such as Japan, Turkey, New Zealand, India, and the Phillipines.


Soda crates serve as a foundation and prevent the structure from taking on water, as does the heavy-duty plastic beneath the thatch on the roof.

Inside, woven-bamboo siding allows light in and helps wick away water. Ban strengthened the paper-tube structural system he has used in previous disaster shelters, such as the Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch.

Ban designed the framing phase to be efficient and quick—the structures can be put up in a matter of hours.