General Information:Location: Itabashi-Ku, Tokyo, JapanDate: 1995Site Area: 110 m²Building Area: 75 m²Total Floor Area: 179 m²
Aesthetics of Shigeru Bans ArchitectureBan stance as Japans most prominent architect issupported by his ability to establish his own unique style inthe age where the infusion of information andmanifestation of the multitude of styles often defineJapanese contemporary architecture.His design philosophy is to create uniquely free and openspace with concrete rationality of structure andconstruction method.Ban creates entirely new spaces using such materials aspaper tubes. He reexamines the existing materials inrecycled forms anduses them in ways no one had ever thought of previously. Thus, he addressenvironmental concerns and alludes to the Japanesespiritual preference for natural housing materials.“In Japan, where the visual structure is usually so loud, a seemingly endless cacophony ofsigns and symbols, thecalm simplicity of Bans projects speakswith tremendous strength. Silence is the powerful voiceBan uses.” Paper Pavillion
Curtain Wall HouseShigeru Ban is regarded by most to be oneof the worlds most innovative architects, usingenvironmentally-friendly materials that are easy totransport, store and recycle. Ban began to experimentwith unconventional materials in 1986, when he usedpaper, instead of wood, to build an Alvar Aalto exhibitiondisplay. He uses anything from beer cases to cardboard,to paper tubes to tenting fabric. The Curtain Wall Houseis one of his well-known projects that that a part of anexhibition the Museum of Modern Art in 1999 called TheUn-Private House.True to the title of the exhibition, the Curtain Wall Houseembodies openness and transparency between interiorand exterior. Billowing curtains are the only means ofproviding privacy to the residents of the house. Withoutthe fabric, the house becomes completely exposed tothe busy street.“Mies invented the glass curtain wall, but I just used a curtain”-Shigeru Ban
False facade Ban played with the idea of a glass curtain wall system, and took the terminology quite literally when he decided to envelop the exterior of the house in conventional domestic drapery. The curtain that Ban uses drapes over the two story structure and acts as a facade wall when drawn over the structure. Though it may seem that the drapery is hanging freely at the exterior, behind it there is a series of sliding glass doors that provide protection from unfavorable weather conditions, yet still create a feeling of transparency. When closed during the day, the curtain still filters in the daylight into the living areas of the house,traditional Japanese rice paper functioning like the rice-paper screens, alluding toscreens Japanese architecture. When pulled back, the curtain allow the air to enter the interior space freely, and are excellent as a passive cooling mechanism.
The building is located at the intersectionof two busy streets in Tokyo and is raisedabove the street level by columns. Banuses abstract vocabulary of planarelements, such as roofs, walls and floorswith minimum enclosure. The only roomthat is closed off from the public eye isthe bathing area. Though compared withMies Farnsworth House, Ban points outthe difference that where Mieshermetically seals off his building fromthe exterior elements, Ban uses glass toallow visual but not acoustical or thermalexchange, the Curtain Wall House allowscomplete engagement with all aspects ofits urban context.
In the Cutain Wall House, Shigeru Ban employs the idea of an “un-private house”, using thecurtain as the only visible separation between the inside and the outside. His idea is alsomanifested in the free plan of building. Without any partitions, spaces and functions can bearranged according to the owners desires. Spaces are very flexible in its use.
Wide decks are attached to the Eastand South side of the second floorliving room, supported by a structuralsteel frame. Exposed columns,acting as a primary structure, supportthe beams that act as cantilevers atthe two sides of the building (eastand south), allowing for an openfacade and the feeling oftransparency. The living spaces ontwo floors are unhindered bystructural supports, playing on lightsand shadows and attempting to"bring the outside in."The third floor plane is sandwichedbetween the cantilevered roof andthe second floor plane. The columnssupport the second floor plane at itscorners.
Environmental ConcernsShading: Putting an overhang on thebuilding over the terrace has strongenvironmental implications. Theoverhang acts as a shading device, toprotect the otherwise exposed glazedSouth facade from direct sun.Sunlight: As weather conditions causethe temperature to change, the houseadjusts by donning or shedding layers offabric, just as a human would.Insulation: In winter, the externallyglazed doors and the curtains can becompletelyclosed for insulation and privacy.
Glass Curtain WallsThough Ban puts much emphasis on histongue-in-cheek interplay of the phrase“curtain wall” by using actual curtains, theglass curtain wall is, nevertheless present,though not prominent, in the Curtain WallHouse. In its essence, the Curtain WallHouse is still a glass box with a flat roofand evenly spaced structural steel I-beams. The glass doors are fully-operableand can be slid back and forth.These operable glass partitions do notcarry any dead load from the building otherthan its own dead load. These loads aretransferred to the main building structurethrough connections at floors of thebuilding.The image to the left demonstrates atypical assembly of movable glazed wallpanels.
Bibliography: Broto, Carles. Minimalist Interiors. Barcelona, Spain : Links International, 2008. McQuaid, Matilda. Shigeru Ban. London : Phaidon, 2003. Riley, Terrance. The Un-Private House. New York : Museum of Modern Art : Distributed by H.N. Abrams, 1999. Buck, David N. Shigeru Ban. Barcelona : G. Gili, 1997. <http://www.inhabitat.com/2007/05/22/shigeru-ban-curtain-wall-house/> <http://www.moma.org/exhibitions/1999/un-privatehouse/project_04.html>