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Architecture of Bamboo

**Course details are still being finalized. Dates, itinerary, and program fee are subject to change.**

Field Course Title: Architecture of Bamboo
Country: Colombia
Faculty: Gabriel Arboleda (School of Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies)
Course Number: TBA
Departure Date: May 18, 2014 Return Date: June 3, 2014
Program Fee: $2,300 + airfare (information about additional expenses and financial aid below)

Summary Course:
Long regarded as the timber of the future and a "vegetal steel" due to its structural qualities, South American bamboo (guadua angustifolia) has an extraordinary potential for sustainable building. This studio introduces students to bamboo design knowledge through site visits, training with experts, studio work, and the building of small bamboo structures. The studio takes place in Colombia, where great knowledge about bamboo design has developed on the basis of a vernacular tradition that dates back to pre-Columbian times. Central to the studio will be an inquiry into the potential of bamboo for socially sustainable development. We will explore the role of this material in post-earthquake reconstruction and low-income housing in the country. The course will be taught as a joint studio with the Art, Architecture, and Design Department at the Universidad Javeriana, one of the most renowned private universities in Colombia.


Application Deadline: Thursday, March 6, 2014

All short-term applications are due to the global education office by 4:30 p.m. on the application deadline. Applications can be found in the global education office or can be downloaded from this page. A non-refundable deposit of $500 (credited to the program cost) will be due March 28 to the GEO in order to reserve your place in the program.

Financial Aid:
Students who receive need-based financial aid from Hampshire College are eligible to apply for financial assistance through the global education office to offset the program fee. Students are expected to cover all additional expenses, including airfare. Awards vary from year to year and are dependent on the number of applicants and the amount of aid available. Eligibility for financial assistance does not guarantee that aid will be awarded. Please indicate your eligibility and desire to apply on your application form.


This course studies bamboo as a fascinating sustainable building alternative. The material has many other advantages; it has dozens of different uses, from building to food. Also, it is affordable, beautiful, and flexible, and as such it allows for endless design possibilities. The course takes place in Colombia, where an internationally recognized bamboo architectural practice has developed on the basis of a local building tradition that dates back to pre-Columbian times. Through field visits we will become familiar with both high design and traditional architecture in bamboo, placing a central focus on the socio-environmental feasibility of building with this material. In particular, we will explore the potential of working with bamboo as a poverty alleviation measure, looking at post-earthquake reconstruction and social housing projects built with this material in Colombia. After we become familiar with the general context above, we will learn the basic principles of bamboo building by working on site with the material. Observing those principles, we will work on small bamboo structures as a design-build studio exercise.

This course will be taught as a joint studio with Colombian architecture students through the Art, Architecture, and Design Department at the Universidad Javeriana in Cali, Colombia. Established in 1623, the Javeriana is one of the most renowned private universities in Colombia, and its architecture school is one of the highest ranked in the country. Some of their faculty have vast experience in bamboo design and building. This expertise will supplement the Hampshire faculty leader's own experience in bamboo building and development practice.

Evaluation Expectations for Students
Students will be evaluated on the basis of:

  • Short field reports and in-class discussions.
  • Design exercises: Conceptual sketches and renderings.
  • Building exercises: Framing of a bamboo structure; joining and assembling.
  • Engagement: Initiative, participation, and overall contribution to a productive class environment

Learning Goals

Prerequisities or Registration Requirements
This course is open to all students. No background in architecture is required.

Program Itinerary
May 18: Arrival at Cali, Colombia airport
May 19-20: Theory phase; Javeriana Univeristy campus, Cali
May 21: Travel to the Andes
May 22-28: Field work phase; towns and villages of the Valle, Quindio and Caldas departments
May 29: Travel back to Cali
May 30-June 2: Design and discussion, Javeriana University campus, Cali
June 3: Depart Cali, Colombia airport

Travel Plans
Students are expected to make their own travel arrangements to and from Cali, Colombia airport. The group will meet at the airport on May 18 and travel together to the accommodations in the city.

Housing Arrangements
While in Cali, the group will stay in a large house owned by the Universidad Javeriana near campus. During the field trips, the group will stay in an Andean coffee plantation house that has been repurposed as an eco-traveler resort.

Program Cost and Additional Expenses
The Hampshire program fee is approximately $2,300. This includes course expenses, accommodations, in-country transportation, some meals, and most excursions and cultural activities.

NOT included in the program fee are the following: airfare ($875), U.S. transportation to and from the airport, passport fees, airport departure tax, daily meals, and personal expenses. Students should budget an additional $1,500 to cover these costs.

Questions about the application process or financial aid should be directed to Heather St. Germaine in the global education office at or x5542.

Questions regarding the academic content or itinerary should be directed to Gabriel Arboleda (assistant professor of environmental design) at


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