The main component of Shigeru Ban’s shelters are cardboard tubes. Almost 30 years ago, when he first experimented with these long paper tubes, he was surprised to discover how easily they could be water- and fireproofed. Moreover, they turned out to be inexpensive, easy to transport, versatile, extremely durable, and, therefore, a perfect source of construction material when natural and man-made disasters occur. Since he set up his first prototypes in Rwanda in 1995 Ban has built emergency shelters made from paper all over the world, giving people much more than a roof in Japan, Haiti, Sri Lanka, India and many other places. His constructions not only serve their intended purpose in the most desirable way but often remain a beloved part of the landscape, turning houses into homes.
Designing a building for an international company that has an astronomical budget at its expense may be considered much more prestigious, socially and financially, than designing ready-to-assemble shelters. For this reason, only few architects prefer to serve the unfortunate over the fortunate. Nevertheless, several remarkable designers have devoted their time to helping society instead of helping themselves, of which some we have covered here in the past. Have a look at the Reaction Housing System, the DIY WikiHouses and, as recently published, the IKEA Refugee Shelter.