Simn Vlez: Architect Mastering Bamboo

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For Colombian architect Simon Vlez (born 1949), botany has been inextricable from architecture. His work has been significantly determined by his country’s tropical resources, in particular its lush vegetation and abundance of guadua bamboo--a common species throughout the valleys of Colombia. Working in close collaboration with the engineer–constructor Marcello Villegas, Vlez has devised bamboo buildings that are extraordinary not only in appearance but also in their structural simplicity, and in their suitability for scenarios in which construction tools and resources are minimal. Vlez has so successfully popularized guadua bamboo that today even his wealthiest clients are commissioning luxury residences in this material formerly associated with peasant dwellings. He has also successfully persuaded numerous public administrations, town councils and businesses concerned about the environmental impact of their activities to adopt and promote guadua bamboo; he has designed bamboo buildings in Germany, France, the United States, Brazil, Mexico, China, Jamaica, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador and India. In this monograph, illustrated throughout by Deidi von Schaewen’s photographs, author Pierre Frey guides us through a range of works by Vlez, examining his construction methods--in bamboo, steel and wood--as exemplifying a new kind of vernacular architecture.

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