With the Shigeru Ban pavilion in Milan, Finnish furniture manufacturer Artek and the forest product company UPM-Kymmene are pointing the way to a future dominated by ecological architecture and sustainability.
Anybody entering the Milan Triennale garden these days, the downtown design center of the Lombardy capital, encounters a corrugated-like, stringent, almost unnoticeable building.
This is the Artek exhibition pavilion for the 2007 Milan Furniture Fair, which was conceived by the Japanese star architect Shigeru Ban, no less. As is usual in his work, the material is the focal point of the architecture. Acting as the systematic continuation of his buildings made of cardboard and paper (such as the Japanese pavilion at Expo 2000 in Hanover), this particular building is made of a newly developed material consisting of plastic and wood. Entitled "ProFi wood plastic" it is manufactured by UPM-Kymmene and comprises a by-product from label production, which, on he back of its resilience and weather resistance, has proved to be a suitable building material that in addition is recyclable.
This project is one of the few by this year's exhibitors that genuinely addresses the set theme of sustainability, and which in addition forges a link back to Artek's long-standing history: The name Artek comes from "art" and "technology" and embodies the endeavor to unite art and new technologies, an endeavor, to which Artek's most important designer Alvar Aalto devoted his life just as much as Shigeru Ban.