Simon Velez: rebel and engineer

Kolakowski, Marcin Mateusz (2001) Simon Velez: rebel and engineer. Architektura & Biznes, 107 (6). pp. 50-53. ISSN 1230-1817

Simon Velez [A&B 2001/6]
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Simon Velez—a rebel and an engineer
He seems to feel better among young people than in any official ambiance, better yet: on the construction site. Despite his complete architectural education and considerable experience, he does not have an office. Much like the medieval masters, he is always on site. He makes structural drawings for the characteristic roofs, emphasising individuality without the unnecessary stress on loftiness. Due to the impressive, sophisticated gracefulness of structure, these buildings are proof that bamboo is a high-tech materi¬al... except it comes straight from the natural world.
What will those people say who are intent on claim¬ing that it is only thanks to the blessings of modern technology that we can attain lightness that is worthy of our time? Something here must be wrong if—without a crane and computers, just with his construction work¬ers—Velez can build a forty-metre-tall panorama tower, a house on the Atlantic waterfront, a house on the Isle of Rosario, a hacienda in Maraton or the houses in Maniz-alez. The great names of our time could boast such structures with pride, were they not so ashamed of sym¬metry. Simon, however, is the heir of Palladio and chooses not to design complex site plans.
Simon has found allies for his ideas in Europe, among open-minded people at the Pompidou Centre, the Vitra Museum, or ZERI (Zero Emission Research Initi¬ative). He built a pavilion for the latter at the Hanover EXPO—perhaps one of the few which truly embodied the environmental aspirations of the latest World Expo¬sition. The building and its predecessor became a pretext for detailed research on bamboo as a building material and for creation of new official standards, still awaiting codification.
Details, such as the joining of pillars and sphere-¬shaped foundations, or the bush-like pillars, are more than just brilliant engineering: they are a poetic inter¬pretation of space which Simon Velez calls organic. The subtlety and logic of his projects make you think of the mysticism of Gothic cathedrals. Where is the connection between sublime architectures?
He has designed classic build¬ings, but he made a name for himself creating bamboo structures, declaring war to psychological complexes and official fashion which still underestimates bamboo. Ini¬tially, he was dubbed 'the Tarzan of architecture', or a 'hippie architect', but the sheer bulk of his life's work and the quality of his projects just had to change this opinion.
Simon Velez—a rebel, an artist, a master of ceremo¬ny, and an engineer—all in one. His is a personality in which the artist's character cannot be separated from that of his works.
He gained some publicity for the first time during a UNESCO conference where the session was dominated by the examples of his buildings (bridges, residential houses, forty-metre-tall towers, service buildings, truss arches).
Simon Velez was born in Manzalez, Columbia, in a family of architects. Discouraged by the plagiarisms of European styles, Simon Velez turned towards nature. He used to say "reinforced concrete has unlimited possi¬bilities, and where the material has no limits, the lan¬guage of architecture just fades away." He developed a new technique for joining bamboo, stronger than any before it and one that could be easily used. Each consec¬utive project demonstrated the potential latent in the Columbian Guadua bamboo. Modernist fashion replaced this material with concrete which, for a hundred years, ruled on the construction sites... and in the minds of the Columbian 'mainstream'.
Bamboo is often associated with poverty and back¬wardness. To use the language of the psychologists, such a view is a kind of inferiority complex, compensated by imitation—and this leads to the loss of one's own identi¬ty. Psychologists claim that love is the therapy for this ailment. It is love that is being inspired by Simon's buildings. He says: "If people begin to love this material, they will begin to built better and they will begin to love the place where they live."
In order to persuade people to get accustomed to the new (even if it is old, actually), it is not enough to be good, you have to be very good.

Subjects:K Architecture, Building and Planning > K200 Building
K Architecture, Building and Planning > K110 Architectural Design Theory
K Architecture, Building and Planning > K210 Building Technology
K Architecture, Building and Planning > K100 Architecture
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Architecture & Design > School of Architecture & Design (Architecture)
ID Code:18049
Deposited On:29 Jul 2015 14:21

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