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ARQ (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.90 Santiago ago. 2015 

Demountable structures

Bahay Kawayan
Post Disaster Housing in Bamboo. Cambridge, England, 2014


Elizabeth Wagemann(1), Ana Gatóo(2), Michael Ramage(3)

© Ana Gatoo, Elízabeth Wagemann

In November 2013, one of the biggest tropical storms in history hit the Philippines, the second most vulnerable country in its exposure to natural hazards according to the World Risk Report 2014. A team from the group Natural Materials and Structures from Cambridge University, that researches low cost constructive systems, designed an emergency housing unit for the region of Roxas, affected by the typhoon. The project received a prize at the international competition Versus: Lessons from Vernacular Heritage to Sustainable Architecture (Valencia, September 2014).

Based on local materials and techniques, a system of fast and easy assembly was designed, with the possibility of being disassembled or modified in time. The design reinterprets the Philippine rural house called Bahay Kubo, whose structure is built of bamboo, steep-sloped thatched roof to withstand tropical rain, over pilotis to face flooding and bamboo walls that allow interior ventilation. These traditional practices were incorporated in the design emphasizing three characteristics: a construction without the use of nails or screws, a structure capable of resisting winds and earthquakes, and a flexible design that allows modification. A vernacular building method was used based on the connection of bamboos by tying them with rope or fishing thread which, in opposition to nails, prevents the bamboo from cracking and splitting.

A prototype of the project was built with its complete structure and part of the wall system in the Department of Architecture at Cambridge University, to test the house’s constructive feasibility and disassembly, the structural behavior of its connections and to analyze the spatial characteristics of the design. The model was built by a team of four people with no previous experience, and disassembled by only two people in three days. 

Up: Front elevation
Down: Lateral Elevation
Published scale 1: 100

Up: Floor plan.
Down: Roof plan.
Published scale 1: 100

Architects: Elizabeth Wagemann, Ana Gatóo, Michael Ramage / Team: Daniel Jiménez, Mark Breeze, Bhavna Sharma, Maximilian Bock, Allan McRobie / Location: Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge, UK. / Client: ONG ADRA / Dates: July 2014 – September 2014 / Structural design: Daniel Jiménez / Construction: Elizabeth Wagemann, Ana Gatóo, Daniel Jiménez / Materials: Bamboo structure Ø 3, 5 and 10 cm, fishing line (1.8 mm monofilament), thatched, concrete foundations, finishing bamboo Ø 3 cm, bamboo screens / Built Area: 23,04 m² (UK), 25 m² (Philippines)) / Cost: US$ 230/ m² (UK), US$ 34/ m² (Philippines) / Images: Ana Gatóo / Models: Ana Gatoó, Elizabeth Wagemann.

1. Elizabeth Wagemann | Architect, Master of Architecture, Universidad Católica de Chile; MPhil in Architecture, University of Cambridge, UK. She has taught at the School of Architecture at the Universidad Católica de Chile. She is part of the Natural Materials and Structures research group at the University of Cambridge, UK.

2. Ana Gatóo | Construction Engineer, Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, Spain; MSC in Architecture, Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia. Her work includes building sustainable and economic housing in Indonesia and Latin America, and the analysis of bamboo structures. She is researcher at the Natural Materials and Structures research group at the University of Cambridge, UK.

3. Michael Ramage | BA in Geology, Carleton College, USA. MArch, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. He is specialist in the design, analysis and construction of timbrel vaults. He currently leads the Natural Materials and Structures research group at Cambridge University (UK) and teaches in the Department of Architecture at the same university.

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