Nepal’s earthquake rubble used to build new houses

Humanitarian architect to reuse Nepal’s earthquake rubble

By: Matt Hickman

July 22, 2015, 6 p.m.
Shigeru Ban's brick-based disaster housing for Nepal

Shigeru Ban’s brick-based disaster housing for Nepal (Photo: Shigeru Ban Architects/Calzada Visualizations)

For his latest disaster relief housing project, it would appear that Shigeru Ban, an architect famous for making magic with recycled cardboard tubes, has embraced, hold your breath, the brick.

But not to worry as the 2014 Pritzker Laureate hasn’t completely abandoned his signature building material, which has been used to erect pop-up pavilions, schools, community centers, houses, cathedrals, concert halls and even bridges. Ban, certainly no one-trick pony, is simply exploring the use of another simple, reusable and readily available material to complement his trademark paper tube-based designs.


It was first announced in May that Ban, through his design-centric relief organization Voluntary Architects Network (VAN), would be working alongside Nepalese architects and university students to design and build inexpensive yet durable transitional housing for those left homeless by April’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake that killed upwards of 8,000 people.

Shigeru Ban's brick-based disaster housing for NepalRendering: Shigeru Ban Architects/Calzada Visualizations)

The initial news that Ban, a graduate of Cooper Union in New York City, planned to descend on Nepal wasn’t in the least surprising considering that he’s made his mark in numerous locales across the globe rocked by both war and natural disasters: Rwanda, Haiti, Sri Lanka, Turkey, New Zealand, the Philippines, Italy China and his native Japan. While certainly not a radical departure, the use of brick for Ban is, as mentioned, new.

Ban’s eponymous Tokyo-based firm explains the simple concept behind the design:

This system can be assembled by connecting modular wooden frames (3ft x 7ft or 90cm x 210cm) and infilling with rubble bricks. This simple construction method enables anyone to assemble the wooden frames very quickly and if a roof (a truss made of local paper tubes) is secured on top, and the wooden structure covered with a plastic sheet, people can immediately begin to inhabit the shelters. Afterwards, people can stack the rubble bricks inside the wooden frames and slowly complete the construction themselves. The first prototype is to be constructed by end of August.


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