Monday, April 28, 2014

Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban, wins 2014 Architect's Pritzker Prize by William Lee Adams

(CNN) -- Shigeru Ban, the 57-year-old winner of this year's Pritzker Prize -- inarguably the world's most prestigious architecture award -- is the Rumpelstiltskin of building design.

When disaster strikes, Japanese architect Shigeru Ban springs to action. Over the past two decades he has used recyclable materials to craft structures in disaster zones. Among them is this "Cardboard Cathedral" in Christchurch, New Zealand.When disaster strikes, Japanese architect Shigeru Ban springs to action. Over the past two decades he has used recyclable materials to craft structures in disaster zones. Among them is this "Cardboard Cathedral" in Christchurch, New Zealand.

For more than two decades he has taken simple materials, including paper and cardboard, and created life-changing structures for people impacted by natural disasters.

In the aftermath of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, Ban built temporary homes for Vietnamese refugees using beer crates filled with sandbags.

Shigeru Ban, Architect
In 2011, after an earthquake and tsunami devastated large parts of Japan, Ban crafted homes from shipping containers. Last year he erected a cathedral made out of cardboard paper tubes for the people of Christchurch, New Zealand.

The 2011 earthquake in Christchurch inflicted severe damage on Christchurch Cathedral, an enduring symbol of the city. Ban created this temporary sanctuary using shipping containers and large paper tubes. It has subsequently become a landmark in its own right.
From Haiti to Rwanda to China, his low-cost structures become symbols of hope for people rebuilding their lives.
"For me there is no difference between monumental architecture and temporary structures in disaster areas," he tells CNN. "They give me the same kind of satisfaction."  Ban is the second Japanese artist in a row to win the prestigious award, following on from last year's winner Toyo Ito.

Among Ban's best-known structures is the Japanese Pavilion, which was built for Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany. The temporary structure, which was crafted from thousands of paper tubes, took three weeks to construct. It stretched for 236 feet and rose to a height of 50 feet.

Tom Pritzker, Chairman and President of The Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the Pritzker Prize, said: "He is an outstanding architect who, for twenty years, has been responding with creativity and high quality design to extreme situations caused by devastating natural disasters. His buildings provide shelter, community centers, and spiritual places for those who have suffered tremendous loss and destruction."
The 2008 Sichuan Earthquake killed more than 69,000 people and left at least 4.8 million people homeless. Ban and his team designed temporary classrooms using paper tubes, including this one in Chengdu
Congratulations on winning the Pritzker Prize. Where were you when you heard the news?
I was driving in Tokyo and I got the phone call from [executive director of the Pritzker Architecture Prize] Martha Thorne. Since I was on the jury from 2006 to 2009, I thought she was just joking. I had to stop and park the car.
You've earned global recognition for bridging the humanitarian and aesthetic aspects of architecture. Was it really such a surprise that you had won?
Honestly, it was a big surprise. I didn't expect it. As a juror I knew the level of the past winners and I didn't think I was at that level. But then it was explained to me that this year the jury considered not only the argument of architecture, but also my activities in disaster areas for 20 years. I carry on both activities simultaneously. So I thought this was not awarded because I reached a certain level as an architect, but as encouragement for me to continue working in disaster areas as well as designing architecture.

A 2004 tsunami ravished Kirinda, a fishing village in Sri Lanka. Ban designed low-cost homes using teak and coconut wood. Each of the two-bedroom houses includes a sheltered courtyard, which can serve as a dining room, workshop or social space.
 Even more opportunities will now come your way. Is there a risk this prize could actually distract you from continuing your humanitarian work?
When some people receive a big award there are more opportunities for their projects and to expand their offices. I don't want to make my office bigger. I like to design everything by myself and to go to the sites. I want to keep working in disaster areas. If I get more projects then I can spend less time on each project and I don't want to lower the quality of each project. I think we have to be very careful to keep doing the same things, as we have done.
How did the idea of working with cardboard come to you?
I was very disappointed about our profession. I thought that as architects we could work more for society. The strength and durability of a building has nothing to do with the material. Even a building built in concrete can be destroyed very easily. There can be a permanent building made out of cardboard tubes. In fact many of my temporary buildings have become permanent. When I first used the cardboard tube for the interior I knew this is strong enough to be a part of the structure.
Starchitects tend to devote the bulk of their time to glamorous commissions. What drove you to disaster relief?
I was very disappointed about our profession. I thought that as architects we could work more for society. Historically speaking, architecture clients are people who had the money and the power. They wanted to visualize power and money with monumental architecture. That was the architect's basic job historically. I'm not saying that is a bad thing. I also want to make a monument. But I thought we should use our experience and knowledge for the public and victims of natural disasters too. I get the same satisfaction when I design a building for a disaster. There is no difference. The only difference is I am not paid. It's pro bono.

Following the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, Ban developed a paper partition system to give displaced people a degree of privacy in their temporary accommodation. Ban created the partitions above following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima. 

Are there young architects in the pipeline who want to follow in your footsteps?
When I give the lecture I always feel a strong reaction from young architects and students. They are interested in working for society and joining my team. When I was a student we used to think, "I want to be a starchitect and big developer." The attitudes of young people are changing and I feel that. If I have been able to help. I think this is my biggest pleasure.
Do you have any advice for those who want to go into "disaster architecture"?
I appreciate when people want to come and join my team and do this work. But instead of just working in a disaster area it's important to travel a lot and to experience different cultures, different climates. It's important for them to be good architects first.

Ban also works on mainstream projects. From 2004 to 2009, while designing the Metz branch of the Pompidou Centre, he worked from this paper-tube office, which he attached to the roof terrace of the Pompidou Center in Paris.

Angel, Sarah McLachlan


Sunday, April 27, 2014

A few photos of my niece and her escort and girlfriend 
at her college Senior Ball,
April 26, 2014.


A beautiful time had by a beautiful couple!

 The Belles of the Ball! 

Lay Me Down, Sam Smith


Thursday, April 24, 2014

A new hobby? Bird watching?

Since I'd never participated, there's much to learn.  It gets more involved if one prefers to travel and not search in the local park, although a wonderful place to begin. 

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
A tiny bird seemingly overflowing with energy, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet forages almost frantically through lower branches of shrubs and trees. Its habit of constantly flicking its wings is a key identification clue. Smaller than a warbler or chickadee, this plain green-gray bird has a white eyering and a white bar on the wing. Alas, the male’s brilliant ruby crown patch usually stays hidden—your best chance to see it is to find an excited male singing in spring or summer.
The kinglet is migratory, and its range extends from northwest Canada and Alaska south to Mexico. Its breeding habitat is spruce-fir forests in the northern, mountainous, United States and Canada. The Ruby-crowned Kinglet builds a cup-shaped nest, which may be pensile or placed on a tree branch and is often hidden. It lays up to 12 eggs, and has the largest clutch of any North American passerine for its size. It is mainly insectivorous, but also eats fruits and seeds.


                          An hilarious film which started me thinking.

The film follows three amateur birders who each set out to achieve a Big Year. They are Brad Harris (Jack Black), a 36-year-old computer programmer based in Baltimore; Stu Preissler (Steve Martin), founder and CEO of a New York company bearing his name; and a roofing contractor named Kenny Bostick (Owen Wilson), who holds the current Big Year record of 732 birds, drives a car with the New Jersey vanity plate "732" and is described by others as "the greatest birder in the world". Though Bostick's fascination with birds is genuine, he is so competitive about birding that the other characters sometimes use his name as a kind of expletive: "Bostick!" Brad is handicapped by limited funds and a full-time job; the other two seem to have unlimited time and money to pursue the competition.

Bostick is obsessively possessive of his record. He is motivated to begin another Big Year by his worry that the El Nino storm system has created the ideal conditions for someone to top his hitherto unbreakable record. He promises his second wife Jessica (Rosamund Pike) that he'll only pursue his Big Year until he's certain that nobody else has a shot at beating 732. Jessica is concerned. This was supposed to be the year they focused on conceiving a child, and she also believes that Bostick's birding obsession is what destroyed his previous marriage.

Brad is a skilled birder who can identify nearly any species solely by sound. He hates his job maintaining the operational software of a Pennsylvania nuclear power plant. Living with his parents after a failed marriage, an aborted career at Dell, and dropping out of grad school, he is a "typical Jack Black underachiever". He hopes that doing a Big Year will give him a sense of purpose and possibly even make his father proud of him.

Stu is the founder and CEO of an enormous Manhattan-based chemical conglomerate which he built from the ground up, starting in his garage. After decades of corporate success, he is ready to retire to Colorado with his architect wife, who has designed a comfortable house with enough space and amenities to entertain their kids and future grandchildren. Though his fears of the abyss of an empty schedule led him to come back from a previous retirement, he wants to leave his company in the hands of his two lieutenants (Kevin Pollak and Joel McHale). The company is in the middle of complicated negotiations to merge with a competitor, so his two anointed successors keep calling him back to New York for important meetings; to some extent he is a "prisoner of his own success".

A Big Year has been his lifelong dream and he's pursuing it with the full support of his wife. At
his parents' house over dinner, Brad reveals to his father (Brian Dennehy) that he has begun his Big Year and the travel costs necessary to undertake his dream have already been budgeted. His father objects, misreading his cash-strapped son's birding travels as an extended vacation and a way to avoid moving forward with his life. Brad is resolute, however, encouraged by his mother (Dianne Wiest).

Stu flies off to British Columbia after receiving notification of a Xantus's Hummingbird sighting in a backyard there. His former company colleagues try unsuccessfully to convince him to return to New
York City. Unbeknownst to Stu, Bostick arrives at the same house in British Columbia and sees the hummingbird. Bostick again comes into contact with Stu when all three men are aboard a birding boat. Aware he may have a fellow birder on his tail, Bostick engages in antics to worsen Stu's seasickness. Brad befriends a nauseated Stu and also meets for the first time fellow birder Ellie (Rashida Jones).

Bostick's wife attempts to gain her husband's attention back on the home front, informing him she has decided to hire a rival contractor to begin work on remodeling their home. Brad is feeling the financial pressure of balancing the need for constant exotic travel with his work schedule and limited budget. Meanwhile, the merger of Stu's company continues to hit snags, causing his former lieutenants to pressure Stu to take an active role in the increasingly acrimonious negotiations.
A freak storm in the Gulf Coast creates a rare "fallout" event, driving exotic birds away from their established migratory routes and forcing them to take refuge on the one patch of land available. It's such an invaluable opportunity to spot dozens of rare, non-native species that Stu, Brad and Bostick all immediately drop what they're doing to bird the island despite the effects this will have on the merger deal, his job, and his marriage, respectively.

Hundreds of birders flock to the area, including Ellie, much to Brad's delight. After spending the day birding together, Brad and Stu dine together and bond further, sharing their own hopes and dreams with each other and forming the seeds of a close friendship. Brad discloses he is currently doing a Big Year. Stu fails to reciprocate. He's still smarting from Bostick's interference earlier in the year, and fears what would happen if too many people learned of his own pursuit and word got back to Bostick.
The negotiations for the merger of Stu's company have now collapsed completely and the only hope is a do-or-die session scheduled to take place just before Stu's birding expedition to Attu Island.

When Stu begs off, his exasperated former lieutenants point out that the jobs of all of his former employees are more important than birding, and successfully shame him into agreeing to the meeting,
While birding in Coos Bay, a friend of Brad's (Jim Parsons) with a prominent birding blog happens to discover Stu's growing list and posts a picture of Stu, along with his Big Year total of 457 species to date. Feeling hurt that Stu did not tell him, Brad divulges Stu's goal to Bostick while the two are aboard a plane on their way to Attu Island. Stu was booked on the same chartered flight but narrowly missed it, held up by his successful and masterful closing of the merger deal. Stu's disappointment only worsens watching local news anchormen stating the storm created prime birding conditions on Attu. Meanwhile, a Rustic Bunting is sighted on the island by Bostick. Stu arrives days later and makes amends with Brad, wanting to remain friends. He encourages Brad in his pursuit of Ellie, who also made the trip.

When they all are back home, Ellie calls Brad to inform him a Pink-footed Goose has been spotted in Boston. Any thoughts he had of pursuing her are dashed, however, when she and her boyfriend pick him up from the train station.

Stu and Brad meet up again while awaiting a ferry to an island where a Blue-footed Booby has been spotted. They compare notes and each is pleased with the other's progress: each has spotted more than 700 species. When they encounter Bostick, Brad injudiciously reveals his number. He intended to put a scare into him but instead "woke a sleeping dog," in Stu's words. Indeed, Bostick tricks Stu and Brad into concluding that the Booby had just been spotted on the mainland. When the two realize, with some admiration, of how cleverly Bostick had manipulated them into missing the Booby, they decide to form an alliance against him and begin birding as a team. Well-heeled Stu pays for a helicopter ride to see snowcocks. Upon landing, Brad is notified that his father has suffered a heart attack; he returns home to be with him. His father comes to affectionately view his son with a newfound respect after hearing Brad explain his love for his favorite bird, the American Golden
Plover, and comes to understand the significance of his Big Year attempt. He accompanies Brad into the snowy woods and helps him locate a Great Grey Owl.

All three birders are coming to understand the cost of their birding obsessions. Brad curses himself out when he realizes that he allowed his sick father to talk him into leaving him behind on the trail when he became short of breath during their pursuit of the Great Grey Owl, and rushes back to find that all is well. Stu finds that he's regretting the time he's spending away from his wife and his new grandson, born during the Big Year and named "Stu" in his honor.

Bostick races home from yet another birding trip to keep an important appointment with his wife at a fertility clinic. He is literally at the front door of the clinic when he receives a report of a sighting of a Snowy Owl, his most coveted and elusive bird. Despite the fact that his wife is waiting inside to have her eggs harvested, fertilized and implanted after undergoing months of hormone injections, he speeds back to the airport and phones in an obviously made-up excuse for his absence. His wife returns alone to their big house, and screams in frustration inside the empty nursery. When Bostick finally returns home after the (fruitless) search for the Snowy Owl, she tells him she still loves him but can't be his wife anymore.

As the year draws to a close, Stu enjoys his newborn grandson; Brad gets a phone call from Ellie saying she and her boyfriend have broken up; and Bostick dines alone in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Eve, still seeking a Snowy Owl.

When Stu is offered the chairmanship of 3M, the parent company that bought Preissler Chemical, he realizes that his fears of retirement are gone and he easily turns down the opportunity to become one of the world's most powerful CEOs. He hangs up on his dumbfounded lieutenants. Brad and Stu close out their Big Year together near Stu's home in Colorado by finally sighting a Norwegian species that they'd just missed spotting during the fallout. Now close friends, they congratulate each other on "a very Big Year indeed."

The Big Year results are published and Stu phones Brad with the news. Bostick is first with 755, a new record; Brad came in second; Stu was fourth. Brad opines that "he got more birds, but we got more everything," as he looks at Ellie, who has come for a weekend visit. Stu smiles, looking at his wife.

The film ends with the new couple cozily birding together on a rocky coastline, while Brad confesses that birding is no longer the biggest part of his life. Stu, contented in retirement, is hiking with his toddler grandson (already enamored by birds) in the Rockies. And Bostick is on a birding adventure in China, alone and gazing wistfully at a happy couple walking with their newborn child.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet


I Like Birds, Eels