Bamboo construction for Haiti
wins Foster + Partners Prize 2013

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News: Architectural Association graduate John Naylor has won this year's Foster + Partners Prize with his proposal to introduce bamboo to the construction industry in Haiti, which is still struggling to recover from the 2010 earthquake.

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor

Presented annually to an Architectural Association diploma student who best addresses themes of sustainability and infrastructure, the prize is awarded to John Naylor for his Bamboo Lakou project, which combines a sustainable bamboo-growing infrastructure with the development of the vernacular "Lakou" communal courtyard typology.

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor

Naylor explains that Haiti's current construction practices contributed to the massive devastation caused by the earthquake, which caused the collapse of 280,000 buildings and killed 316,000 people, even though a far more powerful quake in Chile caused the deaths of just 525. "This was a disaster of Haiti's lack of lightweight building materials, working practices, and construction, not nature," he says.

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor
Lakou workshops

As Haiti has massive deforestation, Naylor wants to establish a long-term bamboo planting strategy and then gradually introduce it as an earthquake-resistant replacement for concrete.

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor
Lakou earthquake resilience

"In a proud culture such as Haiti, preaching a new form of building to the construction sector is riddled with problems," he explains, citing low skills, lack of equipment and illiteracy as obstacles. "This rematerialisation of a construction industry and subsequent demand aims to engender bamboo growth in Haiti."

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor
Settlement scale - click for larger image

Naylor proposes a four-stage strategy that will begin with assessing the existing stock of bamboo available. A small group of workers would learn the techniques and as the material became more widely available the systems could be introduced nationwide to construct thousands of new Lakou courtyard houses.

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor
Lakou one-hectare sample - click for larger image

AA director Brett Steele commented: "John Naylor's project demonstrates the ways in which infrastructural ideas and architectural imagination might today expand beyond the cliches of Modernism to become life itself, literally breathing life into communities, cities and entire countries, today and long into the future."

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor
Deforestation spiral - click for larger image

Past winners of the Foster + Partners Prize include a community for scientists in the treetops of the Amazon rainforest and a sanitation infrastructure concept, also for Haiti. See more projects by Architectural Association students.

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor
Bamboo graph - click for larger image

See more stories about bamboo in architecture and design, including prototypes for modular homes in Vietnam.

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor
Site masterplan

Here's a project description from John Naylor:


John Naylor - Bamboo Lakou

At the local time of 16:53 on 12th January 2010 an earthquake of 7.0 hit one of the most densely populated suburbs of Haiti's capital, Port au Prince.

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor
Lakou cross section - click for larger image

An estimated three million people were affected by the quake. 250,000 residences, 30,000 commercial buildings collapsed, a million people homeless and 316,000 people dead. One month later an earthquake 500 times more powerful, hit central Chile resulting in the deaths of 525. This was a disaster of Haiti's lack of lightweight building materials, working practices, and construction, not nature.

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor
Lakou long section - click for larger image

Set in the context of Haiti, a country with massive deforestation and threatened by earthquakes, only heavy concrete and cement are the building materials of choice. As an integral part of a wider reforestation strategy, this project merges a sustainable bamboo infrastructure along with the vernacular 'Lakou' communal courtyard typology.

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor
Design sequence - click for larger image

This aims to encourage the physical use of bamboo in the Haitian construction sector. The material properties of bamboo provide design opportunities to provide resilience to hurricanes and earthquakes, and affords an assembly logic which intends to communicate a parallel understanding of bamboo's application beyond the building site. This rematerialisation of a construction industry and subsequent demand, aims to engender bamboo growth in Haiti, a material with wider ecological benefits.

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor
Construction sequence - click for larger image

Introducing any new practice of working is difficult in any field. In a proud culture such as Haiti preaching a new form of building to the construction sector is riddled with problems. Low skills, lack of equipment and illiteracy, not to mention theft from a project, whether political corruption or material theft on site, all cause an environment not in a position to implement quality output which is all the more dangerous in Haiti, a site of huge seismic and natural threat. Materials in this location are defined by skill and natural resources. A lack of timber due to deforestation has resulted in concrete becoming the 21st Century vernacular and as a result any skills associated with construction have been aligned to work with concrete.

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor
Building components - click for larger image

Initially the 'Lakou' courtyard house forms the fundamental urban block and this itself is broken into four stages.

(1) Occupational Strategy; which aims to determine a means of developing solutions of occupation for the local population grounded in the existing Haitian 'Lakou' typology of courtyard living.

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor
Construction facade panels - click for larger image

(2) Material Strategy; looks at what is available in Haiti right now and speculates on how what is available can be compounded in the short term with bamboo. The typology and properties of materials will then determine any subsequent strategies.

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor
Components - click for larger image

(3) Structural Strategy; looks at how bamboo can be implemented into a structural system which allows for the Haitian vernacular 'Lakou' design to be implemented. The structural strategy also looks at the limits of design versus materials in seismic areas and tests compounds of materials as well as seismic building techniques to develop a low cost, easily buildable structural system with proven seismic credentials.

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor
Construction and facade frame - click for larger image

(4) Construction and Assembly Strategy; will produce an assembly logic explicit enough to work initially in a workforce mostly illiterate and yet can result in the successful implementation of aspects 1, 2, and 3. It is also designed that this logic has aspects of construction and material awareness which can propagate nationwide. This being either skill or outsourcing construction beyond the proposed new urbanism. This aims to create standards, knowledge, respect for the material and new economic opportunities.

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor
Construction column and beam - click for larger image

This technical strategy forms an integral part of making a new timber and bamboo urbanism possible in Haiti. Through initially encouraging the physical use of bamboo in the Haitian construction sector at the building scale, the material properties of bamboo provide design opportunities to provide resilience to hurricanes and earthquakes, and affords an assembly logic which intends to communicate a parallel understanding of bamboo's application beyond the building site.

Bamboo Lakou by John Naylor
Social function - click for larger image

This rematerialisation of a construction industry and subsequent demand, aims to engender bamboo growth in Haiti, a material with wider ecological benefits and lay the foundations of a new biodiverse dynamic Port au Prince.

  • Pierre

    Well, the use of bamboo seems to be a good response to the problems, but please don’t call it a lakou typology. This project focuses on only one aspect of the lakou: the courtyard (from “la cour”, the courtyard in French), but an essential aspect of this typology is the growth: it starts with a single house, and adds more and more over time, depending on the needs. All those extensions finally form a courtyard.

    This “growing” urbanism seems to perfectly fit the rebuilding of a country, it’s a shame it’s totally eluded in this proposition.

  • FV – Haiti

    Would-be do-gooders need to learn that the people of Haiti are not a perpetual tabula rasa experiment. If you strip away the good looking diagrams and renderings here, you’re left with a whole lot of ignorance.

    The work is suspect to surface research into the Lakou as noted above, displays no appreciation for historically relevant building systems which have been fostered by the islanders over a century ago, and a dangerous disconnect to the natural plant ecology of the island.

  • http://www.dailygrail.com Red Pill Junkie

    Seeing these renders reminds me of the latest filmic version of The Time Machine, and the dwellings of the Eloi.

  • Carmen Gonzalez

    I give the idea some credit — sometimes you have to shift to something more workable, and bamboo certainly grows quickly and is pliable, and can support a cover (what did you have in mind for covering it?)

    However, bamboo tends to take over an ecosystem. What about (former) trees? Mahoganies and cedars, to name two, highly valued woods that are indigenous to nearby islands. The trees aren’t “gone,” exactly, but mostly gone. Will bamboo chase out the few survivors? How about reforestation of native species?

    What about other needs, like decorative objects-furniture-firewood? As kids, we were told that bamboo got its name from what it sounds like when you burn it.