Among other geniuses of bamboo I’ve met during this trip to Colombia, is this colombian architect Simón Vélez, a prize-winning architect, and a proponent of bamboo as an essential building component.
Vélez created joinery systems that utilize bamboo as a permanent structural element in both residential and commercial structures. One of the buildings I could visit with him, was Pabellón del Pensamiento, which was designed and constructed for ZERI Foundation (Zero Emissions Research and Initiative) for the Expo Hanover 2000. A 2000-square-meter bamboo pavilion, that were built first in Manizales, Colombia. The structure utilized bamboo, recycled cement, copper, and a mixture of terracotta, cement and bamboo fiber panels. It was the first time in history that a bamboo structure received a building permit in Germany.
He is known as the bambu architect, a fact that he doesn´t like too much. As he says, we should not be obsessed with bamboo and also, he wants to scape from this idea. It is not the only natural material of the area, and if we want to built a house, just use what we need to do that. His home in Bogota was a surprise because of the mixing materials : bamboo for much of the furniture and structures; steel rebar for stairs, capitals of columns for an arbitrary construction of garden elements,…just a simple mix of things around the house. I like the idea, and more if an important architect defend it.
He describes himself as an architect of many sorts, but resolutely rejects all pretences he deems too artistic or philosophical. ‘Essentially I am a roof architect’ he commences. ‘The roof carries the meaning of the building. That is why the anti-nationalistic Bauhaus movement started with the “ridding” of roofs: they were too recognizable, too local. When it snows a lot, like in Northern Europe, you need a different roof than in Egypt or Greece, where it seldom rains. In Peru, you don’t even construct a roof; you make a shelter against the sun, while in Colombia the tropical rains can be so torrential that you need a big roof and drainage. Bauhaus aimed for a universalism that would make every local identity and therefore nationalism impossible in advance. That highlights the difference between classical architecture, that is beautiful everywhere in the world and modern architecture that is – also all over the world- so distinctly ugly.’