Shigeru Ban blends interior and exterior spaces with fluid finesse as the metropolis prepares for the architect's premier luxury condominium project in New York City.
Japanese architect Shigeru Ban adds to New York's celebrated skyline with a luxury condominium project, introducing a new lifestyle trend in city living.
Few have taken such strident steps in the realm of environmentally aware architecture as Shigeru Ban. However, the Japanese architect's recent project, HEEA Development's Metal Shutter Houses, is garnering a different kind of acclaim - for its unique approach to metropolitan living in New York's Chelsea district. Slated for completion next fall, the architect's first new condominium construction in the United States will offer residents a taste of Ban's hallmark sustainable approach to architecture, with details such as the lobby's undulating paper tube ceiling and sizeable floor-to-ceiling pivoting windows, which will create free flowing air when opened. The unique 11-story development joins the celebrated lineup of dynamic new developments emerging in the flourishing district, such as Jean Nouvel's 100 11th and Frank Gehry's IAC headquarters just next door.
Inspired by previous projects such as the Paper Art Museum and Picture Window House (2001), the exterior also features motorized perforated metal shutters that will enshroud the building's façade.
Since setting up his own practice in 1985, Ban has built a world-class reputation for architecture that not only addresses issues of sustainability, but of social and ecological awareness, particularly with the innovative use of low-cost, temporary materials, such as paper, plywood and textiles. In 1995 he established the Voluntary Architects' Network, addressing the plight of sub-standard housing conditions in underdeveloped and disaster-hit areas around the world.
The architect's most notable masterpieces include the award-winning Paper Church, built in 1995, the Japan Pavilion of the Hanover Expo, which took the World Architecture Award for the Best Building in Europe in 2001, and the Naked House, which won Best House in the World in 2002. Shigeru Ban is currently working on projects worldwide, including the Pompidou Center in Metz, due to open in early 2009.
This is your first condominium project in the US. How did the project differ from, say, Tokyo, in terms of both architecture and regulations?
The biggest difficulty in realizing this project was the lack of manufacturing in the US. I originally used not only metal shutters, but the glass stacking shutter in the second layer. But we couldn't get the same products in the US. Also, even the German manufacturer I always use didn't want to export to the US because of the liability problem. The biggest problem in making interesting architecture in the US is... There are two: the lack of manufacturers, and the crazy liability problems that make contractors and manufacturers afraid to do something new and interesting. That limits the making of interesting architecture in the US.
What was the concept behind the shutter house condominium project?
The metal shutter is often used in the galleries in Chelsea. So, that was the contextual material I wanted to use. But I always like to use a standard material differently. I wanted to use this kind of contextual material in order to control the environment – shading, privacy and so on.
With the metal shutters, how did you avoid the feeling of distancing the building and its residents from the surroundings, from building a fortress?
It's unique to use the metal shutter this way, but it's nothing special. What is different is that I used the same perforated metal for the cladding. That's an unusual way of using perforated metal. So that in the evening when the light is on you can see [the light] through to the windows, although the metal shutters may be closed and it appears to be a metal-covered building.
The idea of using pivoting glass windows for Paper House in Japan was very successful. However, given New York's extreme climate - hot and humid in the summer and bitterly cold in the winter - are they practical?
Well, maybe this is a new kind of relationship for living in New York. But I believe that anyone, anywhere, will always enjoy being outside. Especially being in the immediate space between the inside and the outside. People love to eat and have a drink under the shade of a tree, or under an awning. It is the most comfortable place, it's between the inside and the outside. An intermediate space exists there, so this is not really new, though it might be new for New York. It exists, and most people enjoy it. Whenever they take a holiday or vacation, this is the kind of space they enjoy. Not new, but perhaps new for New York.
You are known for your sustainable approach to architecture. What are the building's green credentials?
I'm naturally always thinking about how to stop wasting materials and energy, so I tried to use cross-ventilation as much as possible. And also, in order to enjoy the space, I tried to connect the inside and the outside to create a bigger space. And even the metal shutters serve not just to protect privacy; they also work as a mosquito net, in order to keep the living room open at night. So it's a different meaning. I simply tried to maximize the ways of using the space, inside and outside, and to take advantage of cross-ventilation.
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