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Pritzker Prize Winner Shigeru Ban Will Build in the Amazon

05/19/2014 - 08h59

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RAUL JUSTE LORES
FROM WASHINGTON

Tons of wood apprehended in the Amazon by Ibama can become architecture by the hands of Japan's Shigeru Ban, 56, who won the Pritzker prize in March - it is considered the Nobel prize of architecture.

The Brazilian Environment Ministry says Ban will be a partner in a project to build stations for visitors and researchers in national parks in the Amazon, and later, observation towers and schools for the local population.

"I fell in love with the Amazon," Ban told Folha. "I love wood, so this opportunity is a dream come true," says Ban, who wanted to be a carpenter when he was a child.

Known for his use of cloth structures and other unusual materials in his buildings, Ban used paper tubes and bamboo in shelters and schools in areas destroyed by the Tsunami that hit Southeast Asia in 2004 and for victims of the earthquake in Sichuan, China, in May 2008.

Although he uses "recycled" materials, he says he is "an accidental environmentalist." He plans to return to Brazil in September to visit Rio's Botanical Garden, which will be reformed, and return to the Amazon.

He aims at two parks: the Anavilhanas, in Amazonas, and Parque Nacional da Amazônia, on the banks of the Tapajós river, in Pará, where he also intends to work.

He says he has been to Brazil three times, but has never built in the country.

After giving a lecture at the Arq.Futuro event and participating in the Rio+20 summit in 2012, Ban returned to Brazil last year for a seminar on the use of wood.

On the occasion, he could finally travel to the Amazon with his wife. They were accompanied by a team of the Environment Ministry's Forest Products Lab, which studies the possibilities of building and producing medicine in the forest.

"Since 2011, we have discussed what to do with so much apprehended wood," says Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira.

The wood is usually auctioned, but there have been denunciations that the wood is bought by those who cut the trees.

Last year, 200,000 m³ of wood were apprehended. The ministry says it is enough to build 15,000 two-bedroom houses, such as those that exist in communities in the Amazon.

Teixeira says that she is seeking "totally private" funds to build Ban's first works in Brazil.

Translated by THOMAS MUELLO

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