Shigeru Ban's L.A. days

Christopher Hawthorne
Contact ReporterLos Angeles Times Architecture Critic

It was in Los Angeles that Tokyo-born Shigeru Ban, the 2014 winner of the Pritzker Prize, first studied architecture.

Well, in Santa Monica, to be exact. Ban attended the fledgling Southern California Institute of Architecture in the late 1970s, right after finishing high school in Japan.

"I wanted to go to Cooper Union and study with John Hejduk, but I found out that Cooper Union didn't accept foreign students," Ban said of the experimental New York school. "They only accepted foreign students transferring from another U.S. school. So I found SCI-Arc, which was very exciting at that time, quite a new school."

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Architect Ray Kappe, the director of SCI-Arc at the time and one of its founders, looked over Ban's portfolio.

"I thought he had quite a bit of potential talent," Kappe said. "He didn't speak much English, but in architecture you can communicate without too much talking -- or you used to be able to, in any case. I thought he would do just fine."

Kappe, in fact, advanced Ban to the second-year curriculum on the basis of that portfolio.

In 2007, Ban and Kappe joined Frances Anderton for an onstage conversation about those days -- and Ban's subsequent career -- at the Hammer Museum.

The video of that event is here.


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