In post-earthquake northern Japan, shelters are filling up with refugees who find themselves adrift in large public spaces, such as high school gyms ( New York Times link; registration required). Partitions, the architect Shigeru Ban, Hon. FAIA, wrote on his Web site earlier this week, are necessary to help the refugees, many of them elderly, "avoid distress from lack of privacy." So the architect and others are "planning to deploy simple partitions" at the shelters. The partitions consist of paper tubes and white fabric, formed into simple "dwelling units." They are refinements of a design Ban has been working on since an earthquake hit Fukuoka, Japan, in 2005. As he writes: "After the project in Fukuoka, wall structures that had been honeycomb boards were changed to a strut-beam structure using paper tubes that can be furnished faster and conveniently at any site, with white cloth for partitions. The joints were made of plywood, and ropes were used for braces For flexible partitioning depending on the family size, the modularized unit dimensions were standardized at 180 cm. For administration, it is impossible to forecast partition needs, so low cost and high speed were the priorities in developing this partition system."
Ban is known worldwide for his temporary paper structures—including a bridge over the Gardon River, in the South of France—and for his responses to disasters. His paper dwellings designed in response to the Kobe, Japan, earthquake of 1995 have found applications around the world.
Ban's Web site includes information for anyone looking to donate to the project.