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Grow Your Own House: Simón Vélez and Bamboo Architecture

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By Simón Vélez et al. Vitra Design Museum, 2002. 259pp. £19.95.

Distributed by Art Books International (01993 830000)

Simón Vélez, a third generation Colombian architect, seeks to upgrade the vernacular use of bamboo, turning it into a more widely usable technology across the world, writes Barrie Evans.

Our nearest UK parallels are the development of timber technology for roundwood by Buro Happold with ABK, and by Ted Cullinan - first at Parnham for John Makepeace, more recently at the Weald and Downland Museum.

The problems of stepping outside a vernacular tradition are similar - developing a technology where there is a limited native skills base and supply infrastructure; lack of regulations and codes for guiding and approving use, which matters too in increasingly urbanised developing countries; a variable material; a technology not invented here; and a traditional material that some aspire away from.But it is a renewable material and one where engineering understanding is growing, as are applications.There are bamboo spaceframes and grid-shell structures, components such as the bamboo equivalents of ply, OSB and parquet, wall screening and more.

This book reads best as a sourcebook on the potentials of bamboo building generally.There is, however, a strong bias to coverage of the bamboo pavilion that Vélez built for Hanover Expo 2000, and a repetitive, not too well-informed, opening essay by Jean Dethier, a curator at the Pompidou.There are some intriguing ideas here, for what is at heart a tropical technology.Cane is able.

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