BUILD: Colombian Architect Proving Strength and Beauty of Bamboo
Fast-growing bamboo grass has become a cause célèbre among those looking for a sustainable and tough building material.
In the last five years, more and more construction projects have turned to bamboo, which has many advantages: it grows quickly, is super strong yet also supple enough to bend in a hurricane or earthquake and has a high tensile strength equivalent to steel. It is, of course, green since it is grown in forests and it is cheap and plentiful in many countries of the South, especially across Asia and Latin America. It is also aesthetically pleasing and can be used to make beautiful structures with intricate patterns.
Despite all these advantages, however, it has been a hard sales job to get people to choose bamboo as a building material rather than traditional woods, steel or concrete. Many people wrongly think that “green” means “not strong”, but as many a construction worker knows in Asia, where scaffolding made from bamboo is commonplace, it is tough and stands on its own.
Pioneers are working hard to prove that bamboo deserves respect as a building material for a greener future.
One of his recent projects is the Zócalo Nomadic Museum in Mexico City. Another is the Crosswaters Ecolodge, the first ecotourism destination in China in the forests of Nankun Shan Mountain Reserve, Guangdong Province. For the Expo Hanover 2000, he designed and constructed a 2,000-square-metre bamboo pavilion for Zero Emissions Research Initiative (ZERI).
Award-winning Colombian architect Simón Vélez has designed more than 200 bamboo buildings in Brazil, China, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama and the United States of America. Vélez’s commissions are varied and include a bridge for the Bob Marley Museum in Jamaica.
Vélez has developed pioneering joinery systems to connect bamboo poles. This is a critical focus of innovation if bamboo structures are going to win people’s trust.
Based in Bogotá, Colombia, Vélez uses a well-trained crew to make his buildings and structures, which offers the advantage of building expertise and a history of lessons learned from past successes and failures. This stability is critical since many good ideas suffer from a lack of stability andlongevity.vélezusesverysimple,hand-drawnsketches on a single sheet of paper. He works with the peculiarities of the bamboo and does not treat it like wood, a common mistake.
To tackle the woeful lack of decent housing for the poor, he has developed a low-cost house that can be built by homeowners. It is highly resistant to earthquakes and is 60 square metres divided into floors. It costs around US$5,000 to make in Colombia. – (December 2010)
Green Village Bali is a master-planned community based in Bali, Indonesia and is built using bamboo as the main construction material. It is a good example of how architects are being inspired by the possibilities
for creative design using bamboo. Green Village aspires to be an “innovative residential villa development” according to its website. It has “residential and commercial spaces as well as artisan crafted bamboo
furnishings inspired by a timeless Scandinavian design sensibility”.