How to use paper to make life a little less miserable for Japan’s earthquake victims

Since paper is great for writing, printing, craft, and packaging, it is easy to overlook its other possible uses. After the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011, architect Shigeru Ban and the Voluntary Architects’ Network teams designed and constructed a modular system of partitions using recycled paper tubes, cardboard panels and fabric, which allows areas to be curtained off to offer evacuees privacy. The Paper Partition System was deemed a success, and it was again deployed to help the evacuees of the flooding in Okayama Prefecture in Southern Japan in 2018 who took refuge in a school gymnasium. The partitions are made of commonly available and easy-to-install cardboard tubes and boards, and the combination of paper and fabric is an environmentally friendly and low-cost solution that has become a source of consolation in times of trouble. When asked about his motivation behind the design, “it is our mission as professional architects to make living environments better,” said Shigeru Ban, who founded the not-for-profit volunteer organization.



Project name

Paper Partition System (2011)


SHIGERU BAN ARCHITECTS + Voluntary Architects' Network

Origin of company