Real Estate

Can You Build a House Out of Paper? Shigeru Ban Says Yes.

At the architect Philip Johnson’s former estate in New Canaan, Conn., there has long been a Glass House and a Brick House. Now there’s also a Paper House.

The Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Shigeru Ban’s Paper Log House, to be exact.

An exhibition of this simple, low-cost structure — designed in 1995 to house victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe, Japan — opens this week and runs through Dec. 15, as part of activities marking the 75th anniversary of the Glass House, which Johnson completed in 1949. (The Brick House, also completed in 1949, is scheduled to reopen following restoration work on May 2.)

The Glass House, completed in 1949, is an icon of modern architecture.Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

It’s a small house, to be sure — just one room — and it’s made mostly of paper, but it’s more resilient than it looks.

The house, which was assembled by Cooper Union students, is an updated version of the shelter designed for Kobe: The foundation is made of milk crates, rather than reclaimed Japanese beer crates filled with sandbags. The walls are vertical paper tubes — like those used for mailing documents or spooling carpet — held together with foam tape and threaded rods; the roof is made from more paper tubes fastened with plywood connectors.

Mr. Ban’s Paper Log Houses have been used as emergency shelters in disaster situations around the world.Credit…Shigeru Ban Architects
The design of the structure is sometimes customized to use local materials, like this shelter in the Philippines, which was built from paper and woven coconut leaves.Credit…Shigeru Ban Architects
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