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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
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.
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.