BUILD: Colom­bian Ar­chi­tect Prov­ing Strength and Beauty of Bam­boo

Southern Innovator - - CITIES & URBANIZATION -

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”.

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