Generally speaking, an architect's style is defined by particular forms or shapes. There's Frank Lloyd Wright's prominent horizontal lines, for instance; Le Corbusier's simple white boxes; or, more recently, the deliberately abstract masses of Frank Gehry — of Guggenheim Bilbao fame. But in the view of Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, such formal elements are ultimately little more than reflections of current trends — in the first two cases above, Modernism, and in the third, "blobbism," or the recent taste for irregular shapes made possible by computer-aided design.

According to Ban, the only way for architects to keep their work free from the influence of such transient fashions is to come up with new ways to actually build things — new materials, for example, or new approaches to structural engineering.

His own answer? Paper — or, to be more precise, cardboard tubes.