"Bamboo is close to an ideal structural material." This statement by Neil Thomas during his talk at Bamboo U, which took place in November 2017 in Bali, really caught my attention. Neil is the founding director of atelier one, a London office of structural engineering, whose outstanding projects include stage and scenography for the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and U2; art installations by Anish Kapoor and Marc Quinn; the Gardens by the Bay, in Singapore, among many others. From the last few years, the engineer has exhaustively studied about bamboo, its structural properties and its most diverse potential.
José Tomás Franco
By recognizing and analyzing the multiple architectural possibilities of bamboo—a construction material mostly native to warm and tropical areas—the following questions arise: How can we take advantage of its qualities and enhance its use in colder climates? Such regions necessarily require a certain level of thermal isolation in walls, floors, and roofs—but for these climates, we can combine bamboo with materials that complement it.
We talked with Penny Livingston-Stark, a designer and professor of permaculture who has worked for 25 years in the field of regenerative design based on non-toxic natural materials, to understand the opportunities offered by combining bamboo with earth.
Earthen construction and bamboo are extremely compatible. They offer different capacities. They compliment each other beautifully. They both require the same conditions, like breathability.
Each material has its own peculiarities and, when using it for building, the design and construction process must accommodate these characteristics. A steel-framed building, for example, must be designed with a certain level of accuracy so that components and parts, usually manufactured off-site, fit together during assembly. A wooden building can have its cross sections drastically modified according to the species and strength of the wood used, or even according to the direction of the loads in relation to their fibers. With bamboo, no pole is exactly the same and each one tapers and curves differently, which requires a different approach when designing and building.
But how is it possible to work with a material with so many challenges and possibilities?
The main objective of the BambooU build and design course is to promote bamboo as a green building material, and to provide tools to architects, designers, builders, engineers, and carpenters from all over the world to value this material and increase its use.
The 2017 version of the course invited its participants to be part of a basic carpentry workshop, in which Indonesian artisans—led by I Ketut Mokoh Sumerta—taught them to build the base of a simple structure in Bamboo, without using other materials and by experimenting with the cutting and joining of different pieces.
See the process of this construction below.
Do Architects Learn Enough About Construction and Materials? We asked this question to spark a discussion among our readers, and the number of responses on our sites in English and Spanish was overwhelming.
Having read and collected all these comments, it is clear that most of our readers agree that what is currently taught about materials and building processes is not enough. The vast majority of them admit that they have acquired this knowledge through fieldwork, years after having graduated. So once again we ask: if material knowledge is so important for the development of our profession, why is it not a fundamental part of the programs in universities around the world?
However, some of our readers contest this view, stating that architects don't have to know everything, and that we can't sacrifice good design to the constraints that impact the construction process. They base their arguments on the presence of specialists, to whom we should go whenever necessary, in a cohesive and collaborative process between the different disciplines.
Review the best comments received and join the discussion below.
It was in 1988, at London’s Tate Gallery during the Deconstructivism conference held in anticipation of MoMA’s eponymous exhibition that I first encountered Zaha Hadid in person. She was lecturing among her six co-exhibitors: Peter Eisenman, Rem Koolhaas, Frank Gehry, Wolf Prix, Bernard Tschumi, and Daniel Libeskind. I had encountered her work a few years earlier as a young architecture student (at Stuttgart University) and was stunned and thrilled by the unprecedented degrees of compositional freedom, versatility and dynamism in her work. Up until then I had not been so sure if architecture was such a good career choice for me. I was rather underwhelmed and bored by architecture but, through my encounter with Zaha’s incredible work, architectural design unexpectedly transformed into an adventure. The bounds of architectural possibilities had shifted. Thirty years later, this sense of adventure continues. Zaha changed our field and changed everything for me.
It is often said that architecture only makes projects more expensive. That architects only add a series of arbitrary and capricious complexities that could be avoided in order to lower their costs, and that the project could still work exactly the same without them. Is this true in all cases?
Although they are more profitable economically, human beings don't seem to be happy inhabiting cold concrete boxes without receiving sunlight or a breeze everynow and then, or in an unsafe neighborhood where there's no possibility to meet your friends and family outdoors. Quality in architecture is a value that sooner or later will deliver something in return.
Balance is key, and a good design will never be complete if it's not economically efficient. How do we achieve this ideal? We reviewed the design process for 'The Iceberg' in Aarhus, Denmark. A project that managed to convince the authorities and investors when proposing a high-impact and tight-budget design, which in its form seeks to respond to the objective of guaranteeing the quality of life of its users and their neighbors.
As long as there have been buildings mankind has sought to construct its way to the heavens. From stone pyramids to steel skyscrapers, successive generations of designers have devised ever more innovative ways to push the vertical boundaries of architecture. Whether stone or steel, however, each attempt to reach unprecedented heights has represented a vast undertaking in terms of both materials and labor – and the more complex the project, the greater the chance for things to go awry.
With a short career of only thirteen years, Italian architect Giuseppe Terragni (1904-1943) left an important legacy of built works that are now used as classic references of modern and rationalist architecture.
We traveled to Como and Milan to visit Terragni's emblematic works that clearly reflect his style. These projects are based on the organized configuration of architectural elements that individually appear clean, pure, and expressive, but together also form a harmonious whole.
These are: Novocomum, Casa Rustici, Asilo Sant'Elia, Casa Giuliani Frigerio and Casa Lavezzari.
The 12 principles published here are explained in detail in the book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, by David Holmgren.
In 1978, Australian ecologists David Holmgren and Bill Mollison coined for the first time the concept of permaculture as a systematic method. For Mollison, "permaculture is the philosophy of working with and not against nature, after a long and thoughtful observation."  Meanwhile, Holmgren defines the term as "those consciously designed landscapes which simulate or mimic the patterns and relationships observed in natural ecosystems." 
In 2002, Holmgren published the book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, defining 12 design principles that can be used as a guide when generating sustainable systems. These principles can be applied to all daily processes in order to humanize those processes, increase efficiency, and in the long term ensure the survival of mankind.
What if we apply them to the design process of an architectural project?
The Architecture Project recently invited us to visit the city of Aarhus, Denmark as part of a press tour related to health and architecture, with the aim of seeing the latest healing projects that are arising in the city.
Overshadowed for years by Copenhagen, Aarhus is a port city that seeks to reinvent itself and shine once again – and it is succeeding. The pleasant surprise is that it is the architects who have driven this change. Architecture has invaded all of the city's spaces, from the forgotten industrial port to the downtown areas full of historical buildings.
This visit has taught us some important lessons: 'healing architecture' isn't only about hospital projects, but rather about encouraging people, about creating friendly spaces to live and coexist, and about getting as connected as possible with users to give them what they really need.
Check out some of the strategies used to achieve these goals after the break.
Between Sunday, May 17 and Monday, May 18 projects developed under the second phase of Espacios de Paz (Spaces of Peace) were inaugurated in five cities across Venezuela. A genuine exercise in participative design, 20 Latin American architecture groups worked for five weeks with communities in neighborhoods dominated by violence, high dropout rates and crime to convert deteriorated and abandoned spaces into public places of peace.
For each project, four groups of young architects worked together to carry out a process of dialogue, research, design, and ultimately the construction of either an athletic, social or educational facility to be administrated by the local community. Espacios de Paz is coordinated by the local office of PICO Estudio, with guidance from public institutions and under the leadership of Isis Ochoa, the High Presidential Commissioner for Peace and Life.
ArchDaily en Español Editors, Nicolás Valencia M. and José Tomás Franco, were invited by PICO Estudio to document and view the five projects in their final phase of construction and speak with the architects and community representatives about the development of the projects and some of the challenges faced in the process.
Learn more about each of the five projects after the break.