Paper Church

After watching the documentary on Shigeru Ban’s paper tube pavilion, I was very curious to look into any other projects that he may have been on the team for. Only five years prior to his creation of the Japan Pavilion, he created the Paper Church in Kobe-shi, Japan. This church is created in a series of cardboard tubes in oval plan. It was constructed shortly after the devastating earthquake that shook the Kobe region in 1995. This natural disaster was responsible for destroying the existing Takatori church. The primary objective of the design of the church was to minimize costs as much as possible. As this was post disaster, money was not extremely available. He wanted it be an easy-to-assemble structure that could be quickly and simply erected by volunteers to provide a place of worship for the victims of the earthquake. Intended to be only a temporary structure, the church made of paper tubes is still standing to this day (now relocated to a site in Taiwan).

Interior view of the cardboard tubes

The ultimate beauty of this church is its modesty of materials, “minimalistic” approach and purpose.  A rectangular volume made of clear plastic louvers encloses an oval of 58 paper tubes 5 meters high, 330 millimeters in diameter. This combination of tubes support a tent-like roof of a clean white, Teflon-coated fabric. The paper tubes are built up from a group of laminated layers of recycled paper to a thickness of 15 millimeters. Along the long axis of the oval, the paper tube columns are spaced closely to form a back drop for the altar as well as a screen for the storage space beyond.  On the entry side the paper tube columns are spaced at a greater distance to allow entry and continuity between interior and exterior, so that when the doors are open the space of the church is extended to the exterior, which is also demarcated by the expansive overhanging roof that was part of a later addition.

The design of this fascinates me because of its simplistic structure. Too often today we try to obtain too many titles in one building. We want to “go green” while using as few materials as possible while making energy with solar panels and creating an aesthetically pleasing facade all for a low cost. From Ban’s structures we can learn that beauty lies within the eye of the beholder and sometimes the purpose of the structure is what makes it so beautiful.


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