Thursday, 7 June 2012

Shigeru Ban speaks about architecture and trees ~

I came across Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, in an interview screened on Campbell Live.  In the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes and damage to the Anglican Cathedral he has gifted the design of a 'transitional' cathedral to the church and city, an extraordinarily generous gesture by a unusual man. 

Shigeru Ban ~ credit for photo to Mossot of Wikipedia, thank you!
In the interview with John Sellwood, he shared some of his thoughts about architecture and what constitutes sacred space.   
Since the text accompanying the video is the merest sketch I've transcribed the parts that interest me the most.  Of himself he says:
After I became an architect I was very disappointed with my profession as architect because we are mainly working for privileged people designing expensive houses, making the public building, working for developers, and these privileged people have the money and power.  Those are invisible, so they hire us to visualise their power and money by monumental architecture. 
 Regarding the cathedral he said:
You're going to see the place for people together.  It's Anglican Church but it's not only a religious place, it's a place for general public to come together to enjoy the quality of the space, the silent-ness of the space.
The durability of a building has nothing to do with the material it's made of - it's whether people love the building or not.
The interviewer asked: "What creates a special space, what creates something where you stand in awe?  Is it the architecture?"  They were both standing underneath a large tree.

Shigeru Ban replied:
You know, even the underneath of the trees, when the light comes through, between the leaves, you feel, you must feel, something different between just there [out in the open] or here [underneath the tree], because these trees create a space underneath, also create the shading, they create... light comes through, so this is almost an architectural space, sacred space.  So that is architecture.
(Note that the words in the brackets are mine and are added for clarity only.) 
I love this reference to the nature of space created by trees, which mirrors my own sentiments exactly.  No one who has stood with their back to a big tree in a thoughtful moment can doubt the value of that point of view! 

Shigeru Ban assured the interviewer that regarding the design of the transitional cathedral:
You will understand the quality of space by light and shadow.
The interviewer concluded: "For Shigeru, designs like the cathedral are as much about integrity and intent as they are about their structure."  

Shigeru added
...The importance of the building has nothing to do with the size of the building: small house is as important as a big church or museum, it's the same.
The interview closed with his statement about his work:
This is my social responsibility.
Applause and cheering from me!  I liked him very much and look forward to seeing what eventuates.  

Please note that I have transcribed the spoken words as they were chosen by the man himself.  Although these might not always be considered quite 'correct', I respect the choice of wording which has its own personal quality, which I wouldn't dream of altering!

You can read more about him here:

Beckenham Park, Christchurch

I have written more about the Christchurch cathedrals in my article:

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