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Keynote speaker: Simón Vélez

Simón Vélez
Colombia | Bogotá

Born in Manizales, Colombia in 1949, Simón Vélez is the son and grandson of architects. Almost 35 years ago, Simon discovered a very simple construction technique that revolutionized the way we can build with bamboo. This technique, consisting of injecting cement mortar in the empty chambers of bamboo where there are structural unions, allows for the bamboo to be utilized for the first time as a true “vegetal steel”. While the architecture of Simón Vélez has a strong reference to vernacular traditions, he has pushed the limits of bamboo construction to achieve more modern and contemporary structural and architectural expressions - large spans, voluminous spaces with impressive heights, elliptical domes and cupula structures, etc…

Simón's basic theory is that architecture must be more vegetarian. He believes that there is an overdose of minerals (concrete, steel and glass) in the construction industry, especially in third world countries. He argues for a more balanced and mix-material/mixed-structure approach to building and design, and the incorporation of more natural material elements in construction. To date, Vélez has designed and constructed over 200 buildings (not only in bamboo) in Germany, France, USA, Brazil, Mexico, China, Jamaica, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, and India. His most notable works are the bamboo pavilion in Expo Hannover (2000), Nomadic Museum in Zocalo Square in Mexico City for the photographer, Gregory Colbert (2008), Crosswaters Ecolodge in the forests of Nankun Shan Reserve (Guangzhou, China 2003). As of 2014, he has been working together with his design partner and wife, New York born designer Stefana Simic, in their studio based in Bogotá, Colombia.

The work of Simón Vélez has been honored with numerous prestigious international awards. He has been part of a lot of exhibitions, juries an international symposia. Simón Vélez and Stefana Simic have built a bamboo 'majlis' that will be on view during the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale.

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