The work of Shigeru Ban is very much praised for expanding architecture into fields neglected by architects for decades: emergency shelters, refugee camps, reconstruction housing, and disaster-relief projects. A territory where “critical issues” and adverse circumstances tend to apparently leave no space for design and its potential to provide quality even in contexts of emergency and temporariness. One of the strategies he has used to overcome these difficulties—often expressed by architects as an excuse for not being able to do anything— is to expand the range of materials with which to respond to such challenges from conventional “noble” materials to “second-class” materials such as paper and cardboard, plastic bubble wrap, Velcro, and fabric, materials that are both sustainable and readily available, and hence pertinent. On top of that, Ban has structural and construction knowledge that is well beyond that of the average architect. These three aspects of his work—expansion into new fields, unconventional use of ordinary materials, and his understanding of structure—have pushed the boundaries of architecture in three directions that are crucial for the quality of the built environment.
The project presented by Shigeru Ban together with Korean artist Jaeeun-Choi condenses these three aspects. This time the field is a former battlefield, the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), where decades of absence of human occupation have allowed nature to regenerate. A suspended park built of light bamboo structures should allow people from both Koreas access to this new environment so that someday people will reunite, just as nature has.