Bogota ~ Colombia
Simón Vélez is an outstanding architect whose aesthetic and technical innovations have enhanced the construction potential of bamboo and challenged mainstream architectural trends. Completing his studies at Universidad de Los Andes, Bogota, Vélez moved away from the predominant international modernist stream to focus on indigenous architectural practices. Commissioned to build a stable using bamboo , a material with strong roots in vernacular Colombian architecture , he researched the structural possibilities of the local species, Guadua. With his partner Marcelo Villegas, Vélez invented a revolutionising joinery method, a new system of structural support, and more appropriate methods for foundations and roofing. These innovations transform one of the world's oldest building materials , considered substandard and suitable only for the marginalised , into a modern resource that meets the strictest international construction regulations and often outperforms steel. Bamboo's elasticity also proves highly suitable for earthquake-prone regions. Furthermore, Vélez has evolved an elegant aesthetic that responds to bamboo's natural qualities and collaborates with nature to create beauty in form, space and surroundings. Vélez has successfully synthesised indigenous design, avant-garde technology and ecological processes. Simón Vélez is honoured for his aesthetic use of natural materials for contemporary design, for transforming local traditional indigenous knowledge through innovation that renews and extends its relevance as a source of solutions for global problems, and most importantly he is honoured for highlighting the essential rapport between sustainable design practices and social development, and between culture and nature.