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Partitions aren’t nearly enough for evacuees

43 17 4

Acclaimed architect Shigeru Ban has gained additional accolades for volunteering to help disaster victims around the world, but he said he has never been invited by a stricken local government in Japan.

Ban, a guest professor of environment and information studies at Keio University and winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2014, creates partitions made of paper tubes and fabric at evacuation centers that give the evacuees some much needed privacy, especially if they must spend prolonged periods at such shelters.

But he said in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun that setting up partitions is not enough for disaster relief, and society must consider alternative ways to secure privacy for future emergencies.

Although he travels between Japan and other countries almost once a week, he plans to visit Hokkaido, where a magnitude-6.7 earthquake struck on Sept. 6 and left many people homeless.


Question: Are you going to Hokkaido where the most recent earthquake disaster occurred?

Ban: I was not invited, but I will reschedule other jobs to go there. I am now preparing to install paper partitions at evacuation centers on the northernmost island.

Since the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, I have made contributions to people affected by the 2004 Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake, the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, and the Kumamoto earthquake in 2016.

However, not once have I been asked by a municipal government to come.

Q: Are you saying you have never been invited despite so much coverage about your work?

I have been invited by overseas nations, such as Turkey and India, but not by authorities in Japan.

Wherever I go, I usually get the same answer from municipal offices, namely: “We don’t need them (partitions) because there is no precedent.”

They also say it is easier to manage evacuees without the partitions, citing, for example, the problems of dealing with someone who drinks alcohol behind the partitions.

Verbal explanations are not enough to get the authorities to understand the necessity for privacy. So I resort to “force” by actually installing the partitions and to make them understand that the partitions are a needed convenience.

Q: As an architect, why did you choose to make paper partitions instead of building something bigger and more concrete?

A: That’s because privacy is one of the most basic rights that humans need. A lack of privacy may also lead to fatal consequences. Someone who stays in a car for privacy reasons could develop a blood clot or other conditions.

I first realized that typical evacuation shelters lacked privacy at the time of the........

© The Asahi Shimbun