Paper Tube School
The devastating earthquake that struck in central China's Sichuan province on May 12 killed 69,000 and left 4.8 million people homeless. The most chilling symbol of the Wenchuan quake were the thousands of schools that flattened like pancakes, crushing scores of children -- the result of shoddy construction. While the investigations continue (and serious criticisms continue to be suppressed), scores of domestic and foreign initiatives have come to Sichuan, hoping to rebuild stronger and more sustainably.
One of the more elegant and poignant design projects, led by prominent Japanese architect Shigeru Ban and a team of Chinese and Japanese students, is *****ing temporary but resilient schools out of plywood and recycled cardboard tubes.
How it Happened
Ban has been putting recycled paper tube structures into use as shelters in devastated places for a decade.
Shortly after 5.12, as the deadly quake is known in China, Ban arrived in Sichuan to propose his idea to the local government. Once approval came from education officials, Ban assembled a team of students from his research center banlab, and the Hironori Matsubara Lab at Keio University, along with volunteer teachers from around China, who were assigned by the country's education ministry.
How it Works
Recycled paper tubes aren't just useful for holding architectural blueprints. They can be molded into load-bearing columns, bent into trusses and rapidly assembled, and can be made waterproof and fire resistant. Because paper tubes are available in various thickness and diameters, they can be added to a structure to support more weight as necessary. Ban has said he hopes to build structures a few stories high.
At Pingmag, Wataru Doi, the director of the Sichuan student project, goes into detail:
Basically, the framework is made from paper tubes and the walls are made from material that is cheap and easy to produce in China. The roofs are made of plywood, and we used polycarbonate as insulation.
Ban was also behind 2005's shipping container Nomadic Museum, and in 2007, he and a group of students completed a cardboard bridge in France..
The next step is to roll the paper tube design to a larger audience in a standardized form, which would bring down the cost to that of typical temporary buildings. The project is collecting donations online.
Aside from providing temporary schools, the project's legacy will be for architects too. Said Wataru Doi: "People tend to think that architecture is only about building skyscrapers and homes. And sometimes, architects let that kind of attitude go to their heads. Architects have to think about what they can do for society. The answer to that is doing something for people who need help. Thatís an obligation. We will remember this very experience probably into our old age."