Japanese architect gives Ukrainian refugees private space in shelters

Courtesy of Voluntary Architectures’ Network
A woman who fled Ukraine with her baby is seen in front of Paper Partition System units at an evacuation center in Chelm, Poland.

Internationally renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is setting up partitions made from paper and cloth to provide a comforting, private space for Ukrainian refugees living in shelters.

“I want to create places where displaced people can have as much peace of mind as possible,” Ban said.

In 1994, Ban used paper pipes to create shelters for refugees from the ethnic conflict in Rwanda. He later developed the Paper Partition System and has provided it to disaster-affected areas such as those struck by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

The system uses paper pipes as pillars and beams, and hangs cloth like curtains to secure the inhabitants’ privacy. Ban was awarded a Yomiuri International Cooperation Prize in 2019 for his achievements.

Ban communicated with a fellow architect in Poland earlier this month, and entered the country on March 11. He visited the city of Chelm, about 25 kilometers from the border with Ukraine, where he installed 319 units of the Paper Partition System at a former supermarket hosting displaced people from Ukraine, with help from students and others.

Ban also provided 60 units for an evacuation center at the Wroclaw Main Railway Station in the eastern Polish city of Wroclaw. A woman who had kept her emotions in check around others started crying inside her unit, he said.

“She was apparently able to let go of some tension when she could be alone,” Ban said.

He has shipped about 900 units to shelters in Ukraine and plans to install the system from Thursday in an evacuation center in Paris for displaced people.

Warsaw and four other cities, as well as the European country of Slovenia, have also requested Ban to provide them with units.