Architectural Reforestation: Beautiful Bamboo Buildings for Haiti

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The highly populated city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti is still trying to recover from a devastating 2010 hurricane, with many residents displaced. What’s the solution? Designer John Naylor presents a system of storm-resistant architecture made of bamboo that works in harmony with bamboo forests planted just outside the busy urban center.

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Winner of the 2013 annual Foster + Partners prize, ‘Bamboo Lakou’ addresses both the need for infrastructure and the pressing problem of deforestation on this poor island nation. Based on the typology of ‘lake’ or courtyard, the design creates a communal space around which industry, commerce and residence revolve.

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The organic-looking structures and the bamboo forests that surround them provide a striking contrast when seem from above beside the conventional architecture of Port-au-Prince. Each individual ‘lake’ acts as an urban block with layers of shops, restaurants, industrial spaces, schools and homes within it.

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The buildings themselves are made of both thicker and stronger bamboo that’s a few years old, which provides structural support, and young bamboo, which is essentially used as thatching. This building method is easy to learn, replicate and repair, and it’s flexible in the face of strong winds and driving rain. Irrigation channels route rain and floodwaters around the structures.