Find Menu
student in media lab

Architecture of Bamboo (Colombia)

Location: Colombia
Faculty: Gabriel Arboleda, assistant professor of environmental design (HACU)
Course Number: HACU 204S
Departure Date: May 29, 2016 Return Date: June 12, 2016 (dates are tentative)
Course Fee (tentative): $2,300 + airfare (information about additional expenses and financial aid below)

Course Summary

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.

This course is open to all students. No background in architecture is required.

The course is interdisciplinary by nature, accommodating students’ diverse interests in ecology, biology, social development, planning, building, and other areas.


Short-term field course eligibility requirements.

Financial Information

Short-term Field Course Finances and FundingImportant information about fees, payments, and financial aid.

Course Fee

The Hampshire course 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 course fee are the following: airfare ($875), U.S. transportation to and from the airport, passport fees, airport departure tax, some meals, and personal expenses. Students should budget an additional $1,500 to cover these costs.

How to Apply

Short-term field course application deadlines and instructions.

Full Course Description

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.

Cumulative Skills

  • Successfully conceive and complete independent project-based work
  • Understand and incorporate multiple cultural perspectives on intellectual or artistic subjects

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

Program Itinerary

May 29: Arrival at Cali, Colombia airport
May 30: Javeriana Univeristy campus, Cali
May 31-June 5: Site visits in the Andes; towns and villages of the Quindio, Caldas, Cauca Valley and Risaralda departments
June 6-10: Design and build phase, Cali
June 11: Closing meeting at Javeriana University campus, Cali
June 12: 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 29 and be transported to the accommodations in the city.

Housing Arrangements

While in Cali, the group will stay in a guest house near 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.

Predeparture Preparation

There will be 1-2 group orientation sessions prior to departure, detailing logistics, protocols and expectations, and preparing students for what they will experience in terms of Colombian geography and society. There will also be a separate required session with GEO to discuss information and resources related to health, safety, and travel. 


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

Stay In Touch
With Hampshire College
Snail Mail
Hampshire College
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002