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Continuing Shigeru Ban's experiments with materials and structure, this timber lattice forms a delicate, luminous vault.

Shigeru Ban's work is permeated by a strong sense of Japanese architectural history reinterpreted in an explicitly contemporary manner. It embodies the classic Japanese tenet of elegant economy, of making the most out of very little, transforming banal materials such as paper and cardboard into structural elements. Yet to see Ban's work as a development of an unorthodox style, or an unusually poetic sensibility to materials, would be to overlook the wider social context in which his work exists. His involvement with the earthquake-shattered community in Kobe (AR September 1996) is particularly significant in that it embraces the idea of participation.

One of his most recent projects is a children's day-care centre attached to a hospital in the far northern town of Odate. Glazed at both ends, the single-storey building is a seamless tubular volume, with free-standing partitions delineating washing and kitchen spaces. The tube is made up of tautly curved bands of laminated timber held in compression by a series of members running lengthways along the structure. Light percolates gently through square openings between the laminated timber bands, dappling the interior so that the effect is like being in a giant wicker basket.

Odate is subject to heavy snowfalls and roofs have to contend with considerable snow loads (450kg/sqm). The tube is enclosed and protected by a 45 degree pitched roof connected to the laminated timber inner layer by a spindly space frame, which helps to stiffen and stabilize the structure. The ribbed roof is made up of alternate strips of steel and translucent polycarbonate sheeting so that the light can diffuse through. Inventive in its exploitation of basic materials, this sensuous timber tunnel exemplifies Ban's lyrical yet rigorous sensibility.


Shigeru Ban Architects, Tokyo

Structural engineer

TIS & Partners




1 Angular roof, designed to repel snowfalls, encloses a tubular volume fabricated from laminated timber.

2 An intermediate space frame stiffens the entire structural ensemble.

3 Luminous 'wickerwork' vault. Light dapples through openings in roof.
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Title Annotation:day-care centre
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Oct 1, 2001
Previous Article:MAN-MADE FOREST.
Next Article:OFFICE LIFE.

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