Content - Award for Japanese-Swiss team in wood architecture

  • July 04, 2017

Award for Japanese-Swiss team in wood architecture

Tokyo (SCCIJ) – Shigeru Ban, the world-renowned architect from Japan, became famous for using recycled cardboard tubes to house disaster victims quickly. He also received the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the most prestigious prize in modern architecture, for his innovative use of material. Little known is his collaboration with the Swiss civil engineer Hermann Blumer for the construction of buildings with a technically demanding wooden structure, though. In fact, the creative Swiss-Japanese team has worked together on a number of projects. Now this unique collaboration has finally been recognized: As a team, they have been awarded the Schweighofer Prize 2017 which honors their groundbreaking innovations in the use of wood as a construction material.

Schweighofer Prize 2017

Swiss civil engineer and entrepreneur

Hermann Blumer, born in Switzerland, completed an apprenticeship as a carpenter and then studied engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich). After working as a scientific assistant in the department for wood construction at the University of Karlsruhe, he became the managing director and owner of his father's company Blumer AG. In 2003, he founded his own company Création Holz and has managed it since then. Since 2016, Hermann Blumer has been an honorary professor at Aachen University of Applied Sciences.

For more than half a century, Hermann Blumer has been searching for innovative solutions, novel connections and components for constructive timber construction. His portfolio ranges from large, globally significant projects to small local construction projects. The material wood with its immanent material properties is always at the center of his considerations, the Schweighofer Prize jury said.

Pioneering architect from Japan

Shigeru Ban first studied at the Tokyo University of the Arts and then at the Southern California Institute of Architecture. Later he attended Coopers Union's School of Architecture in New York City. Ban's pioneering buildings are characterized by an aesthetic overall concept and ecological awareness, which is reflected mainly in the choice of materials. Many themes and techniques from traditional Japanese architecture are a common part of its buildings. His works include social projects such as the emergency shelters in the disaster areas of Kobe and New Orleans and the refugee camp in Rwanda.

The cooperation of Hermann Blumer with Shigeru Ban has proved to be fruitful and inspiring. Together they have worked on at least seven projects:

Haesley Nine Bridges Golf Club House, South Korea, 2010

“A tree-like supporting structure with an attached crown (…) is at the heart of the building. With a length of 76 m, a width of 36 m and a height of approximately 13 m, the building can be described as a huge wooden work of art.“ (from Création Holz)

Centre Pompidou – Metz, France, 2010

“The wooden free-form roof forms a hexagon with an extension of 90 m and reflects the floor plan of the building. The double-curved and twisted ribs of the roof construction, spaced 2.9 m, form a pattern that resembles a woven fabric.“ (from Création Holz)

Tamedia Office Building, Zurich, Switzerland, 2013

“One of the main features of the project is the proposition of a main structural system entirely designed in timber where its innovative character from a technical and environmental standpoint, gives the building a unique appearance from the interior space as well as from the surrounding city.“ (from Shigeru Ban)  

Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colorado, USA, 2014

“Design features include an innovative long-span timber space-frame roof structure, woven wood panel façade, structural glass floors for gallery day-lighting, outdoor gallery stair which connects the site plaza to the third floor roof level, and glass elevator.“ (from Shigeru Ban) 

La Seine Musicale, France, 2017

“As the perimeter wall eventually diminishes towards the leading edge of the site, the hexagonal wooden grid shell structure of the classical music hall emerges. Surrounding the grid shell structure is a large triangular solar panel mobile sail.“ (from Shigeru Ban) 

Team 7 World, Ried, Austria, in progress

“Shigeru Ban won over the jury with an innovative, energy-neutral wooden construction, which embodies TEAM 7’s love of solid wood and vision for a modern, sustainable lifestyle to great effect.“ (from Team 7) 

Swatch and Omega New Headquarters, Biel, Switzerland, in progress

“The Swatch building will be more of an organic form, with a wooden grid shell structure, while the Omega building will be more rigid and formal, expressing the verticality and horizontality of post and beam construction. Both buildings reflect the culture, spirit, and identity of each corporation.“ (from Shigeru Ban)

About Schweighofer Prize

The Schweighofer Prize is an “Innovation Award for the European Forest Based Sector”. It is donated by the Austrian Schweighofer family, who has been engaged in the European woodworking industry for generations. Since 2003 the award is presented every second year, and is endowed with a total prize money of € 300,000. The Schweighofer Prize awards innovative ideas, technologies, products and services in order to strengthen the competitiveness of the European Forest Based Sector.


Text: Schweighofer Prize Organization translated and edited by SCCIJ; Photo: (from left) Gerald Schweighofer, Hermann Blumer, Taro Okabe, representing Shigeru Ban (©

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