Simón Vélez lecture

Excerpts from Simón Vélez's February 2011 Current Work lecture.

March 11, 2011

Recorded on February 24, 2011.

Current Work is a lecture series featuring leading figures in the worlds of architecture, urbanism, design, and art.

In this excerpt from his February 2011 Current Work lecture at the League, Colombian architect Simón Vélez discusses building with bamboo and various projects he has designed around the world.

Simón Vélez was trained at the University of Colombia in Bogotá, where he has practiced architecture for more than 40 years. His achievement utilizing bamboo as a structural material for architecture grew out of close collaborations and relationships on-site. Often working in rural areas, Vélez capitalized on the lack of regulating authority and the relative difficulty of importing standard building materials such as brick and mortar to experiment with locally available materials. With Marcelo Villegas, he developed a mortar-filled joinery system that allows long-span and cantilevered structures to be built out of bamboo. By building only with his own well-trained crew of workers, Vélez has been able to draw upon past successes and failures in detailing. He intentionally keeps drawings simple, usually freehand on single sheets of 8×11 inch graph paper.

Completed work ranges from low-cost houses that can be built by their inhabitants to large-scale pavilions and commercial projects including: a bamboo pavilion for the Expo Hanover 2000; the Zócalo Nomadic Museum in Mexico City, which houses Gregory Colbert’s “Ashes and Snow”; and a bridge for Crosswaters Ecolodge, the largest commercial project in the world to use bamboo.