Monday, February 9, 2015

Koolbamboo The 12 year adventure friends come and Gone
German Gabriel doing his thing..
Its been quite a while that I have taken the time to add to this blog a few years actually. The Bamboo path has been quite perilous as time takes its toll too many may of the those who have made an impact in this field have gone from our midst. As I begin to re-energize my blogosphere I wish to honor a couple of people who have passed and influenced much of what bamboo is today in the sense of commercialization. One of the most important innovators and promoters Gabriel German Londoño. A great personal friend and incredible Colombian statesman. We met German Gabriel in 2002 with an epic tour of his Farm. He reminded me of Sean Connery and always had a curios little piece of bamboo stem in his mouth which he later revealed as his quit smoking apparatus. He was great friends with Marcelo Villegas and Simon Velez and he was convinced that Guadua was the future of construction. He was instrumental in the construction of the two ZERI pavilions and donated much of the bamboo used in the construction of the prototype located in Manizales. He was known as "El hombre del bambu" and Im sure he is roaming around in a guadual (bamboo forest) in heaven trying to figure out what to do with all of that bamboo just like here on earth..

Barry McCarthy showed up at my office in 2003 and saw the potential for a business and ended up being my greatest competitor. He created a company called Bamboo Barry and proceeded to emulate my company and to be fair he had a few innovations of his own.

Bamboo Barry Character Drawing
 quite close to the real"character"

Needless to say we were not friends for a very long time in those days. He moved his company from Chicago to Stuart Fl and then directly here to Miami. After some time and a lot of the realizations that the bamboo pole business is not a great money maker. The demand for bamboo in the U.S. is very seasonal to say the least. Barry and I had many falling outs and it was often like walking on eggshells around him as his family can attest to. He had many similar products such as the Solaris canvas structure that Jorg Stamn developed with a canvas roof very similar the the canvas roof  Jorg stood under in 2003 at Fairchild tropical gardens offered by you guessed it Koolbamboo and Guaduatech.  To Jorgs credit its a very intelligent design for that paraboloid stye roof and nice looking structure. The bamboo business has almost left us shipwrecked many times so we had an alliance that became  close friends until his death. Who really has time to have enemies any way with cellphone blogs etc.   I was blessed  by  forgiving Barry  and embracing his friendship.  Barry said to me one day " Its a very funny world Will I don't know any one else in the world who knows about the bamboo businesses like you" and I had to agree with him it was strangely mutual. We have seen many start up companies and people who have great ideas for bamboo some legit and others not so much who have come and heated up the press and the web with this idea that bamboo is going to save the world and make themselves a ton of coinage, only fade off into something else and leaving us to have to explain the truth about bamboo , its advantages and great limitations. I still get calls from people who want to plant bamboo and know if I will buy it from them when and if it grows. Planting bamboo in South America is like taking sand to the beach.There is so much misinterpretation of data and facts especially in the species native to central and South America. mostly preservation,another blog for the future perhaps dispelling the modern media machine surrounding bamboos in the Americas. We used to share stories about people who would call us and try to sell us bambusa Vulgaris out of their yards. Bambusa Vulgaris is the most common bamboo found in the world. It is very weak and as far as preservation construction highly unsuitable for any thing other than bonfires. The conversation would go something like, " how much did they want to give you ," response: " give me ha they want 30 dollars a pole", followed with strong laughter... I liked to tell him that he was the president of the FOSS , my made up name for all the crazies in bamboo The Fringe Of Society Society and he would relish the title gleaming as he perfectly fit the role..Rest Peacefully Brother...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Bamboo Structures

Apologies to those who follow this blog, as 2008 ended with few developments we had not been contributing to this writting. In December 2009 we displayed one of our structures for the city of Miami and Green Art U.S.A that coincided with Art Basel. The show went well and we were able to display one of our finest kit structures to the residents and patrons of art Miami. The relation ship with Green ArtUSA has led us to Ultrafest 2009 where we will be installing 3 of our prefabricated structures at the ecovillage. There is also an event on the beach at Funkshion that we will be installing one of our latest structures in the V.I.P area. The course we had scheduled for March 2009 has been rescheduled for 2010 due to the impact of the economy. Daniel Cheyne has developed 2 new original bamboo structures. The pavilion above and a larger version of these unnamed new structures. These structures are our latest attempt to build simple and strong structures at a reasonable price. The smalller version will retail for 2500 (pictured above) and the larger version will be 3500.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bamboo Convention Center Makes its Debut

In the mountains to the east of Bogotá, there is a small picturesque village named the La Calera and the new home of Bahia a 30,000 sq ft convention center. The most recent structure created by Architects Daniel Cheyne and Jorge B Londoño and the Guadua Tech ( Richard and Camillo) Team , Bahia is privy to a spectacular view of Colombia's' Capitol City. The structure that once occupied the site and housed a popular night spot, ended its existence in an electrical fire over 10 years ago. The owner enlisted the Guadua Tech team to take the remnant's of the old structure and revamp it with a modern convention center utilizing our favorite building material Guadua Bamboo Poles and the patented joinery system developed by the Colombian Architectural team in 1998. Due to the nature of the Guadua Tech system a structure can be pre-manufactured and built on site with a smaller crew than most construction techniques much to the amazement of large construction crews.The design of Bahia incorporates a multi leveled structure encased in glass, emphasizing the bamboo poles handsomely appointed with a new generation of articulations and custom hard ware. The finishing touches include adobe columns to support the bamboo beams decorated with mosaic tiles, interior gardens and by far the best view of the of Bogotá.The Bahia site has its own chapel built out of adobe and brick designed by Daniel Cheyne, also newly constructed. In early 2008 Bogotá was inundated by the worst hail storm to date and responsible for the destruction of several edifices lacking the structural design to withstand the weight of several feet of frozen water. In this case and that of an earth quake that rocked the city a couple of weeks ago, Bahia stands unaffected, a tribute to the design, engineering staff and property owners who undertook this project using Guaudua Angustifolia bamboo poles.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Next Generation Of Bamboo Connections

The idea of using bamboo as a construction material is just being explored by architects and engineers in the U.S. and Europe. For those who have known of the strength of Bamboo poles the challenge has been to separate bamboo from the a theme faux finish typical of a Gilligans' Island set, to a functional load bearing material. The patented Guadua tech system has the advantage of utilizing the extremities of the bamboo poles catering to the minimalism ideal of modern architecture . Our latest project the Bamboo Pagoda for Tropical bamboo rendering seen to the left allowed the Guadua Tech team to incorporate a new generation of cast and hardened steel articulations. Up to this point projects for incorporated a trailer ball and socket to accomplish angled stances of the bamboo structures. Architects JB Londoño and Daniel Cheyne redesigned this connection for a large project in La Calera Bogotá named Bahia , a 20000 + sq ft convention center over looking the Colombian Capitol. Another distinct advantage of the Guadua Tech system is the ability to design a structure that can be prefabricated and this week the Tropical Bamboo Pagoda arrived by plane, much to the curiosity of all of the employees of the cargo airlines. The pre-assembled structure arrived along with the new generation of articulations on a double sized pallet and three of Marcelo Villegas 4 x 8 Ply wood sheets ( info to be presented later). The new articulations will not be incorporated in every new project as they are cost prohibitive being cast in small quantities , however the Tropical Bamboo Pagoda Project presents itself as the perfect opportunity to incorporate Guadua bamboo poles and high grade steel articulations.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bamboo Bridge Flys Away

The first flying bamboo bridge makes its appearance at the F.A.U. campus yesterday. In 2006 Simon Velez and Marcelo Villegas were the Guests of Florida Atlantic University at the suggestion of Hitesh Mehta, who just completed an eco Hotel in China with Simon Velez. The project which was completed by the Students a very modern bamboo bridge using Marcelo Villegas' washer system and supplied the bamboo poles and the American Bamboo Society made a generous contribution to the course. The students and staff were eclipsed by the pace at which Simon and Marcelo worked. After the course the bridge was structurally complete but was not considered safe by the administration, and was headed for demolition . Enter Daniel Cheyne our partner and C.E.O. of Guadua Tech S.A. who had proposed several bridge designs for Tropical Bamboo, made the leap that if the school wanted to dismantle the bridge why not just pick it up and move it to Tropical Bamboo. This concept didn't really seem feasible to most, pick up a 30 ft bamboo bridge estimated weight at several tons as most of the nodal connections were filled with mortar as per the masters in bamboo construction plans, and place it on a truck and take it to its new home. This raised several concerns for the school, Safety permits, would it hold I mean after all its Bamboo. We all know the importance of Guadua Angustifolia and its strength and Marcelos system has been proven, but this structure was built by students over 2 years ago and the bamboo poles have been exposed to the sun. Well after some slight negotiations we solved the problem by just doing it, Daniel Cheyne was in awe that we didn't close the road no police no permits, "very Colombian" . Robert Sapporito ( Tropical bamboo) hired a crane and flat bed truck the structure was strapped cut away from the footers and lifted into the air. The bridge was weighed at 6500 lbs much less than anticipated by Aron Temkin the current dean of the school of architecture and Luke a professor at the school of design. This could have been a bad scene but the structure flew with out any sag or motion a tribute to the design, the material the students and faculty. To quote my Colombian architect friend "Unbelievable"

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bamboo, Emergency & Low income Housing

Much of what life brings us is the opportunity to help those who are less fortunate. Shelter, especially for the poor can easily and efficiently supplied with bamboo. This concept has been explored by the greatest influences in the bamboo construction field, as most believe this highest and best use of bamboo, especially our friends in South America Like Marcelo Villegas . Today much of what has come into the realm of bamboo construction has been very elaborate and ornate structures (see, and create a void in the idea that bamboo is material for the impoverished. The rediscovery of bamboo as a high tech material, especially Guadua Bamboo, has brought about the secondary effect of peaking the interest in people who are devoted to the development of low income housing. Our partners at Guadua Tech, made the decision to submit a design to Un techo Para Mi paiz , in order to develop a pod style kit home /emergency shelter.The first housing structure that Guadua Tech designed, for a completely unrelated low income housing project was not cost effective for the specifications laid out by Un Techo Para Mi Paiz . The second and final design incorporates recycled plastic panels with Esterillia (Guadua bamboo Poles broken into sheets) , Esterillia ply wood panels, and the Guadua Tech ends. The final model easily assembles in 4-6 hours, it comes in a box and weighs less than a ton. The representaives of Un techo Para Mi paiz gave the structure its first look a couple of months ago and showed great interest in it. The technologies used in this design are cutting edge in the field of bamboo. The Guadua Tech end is the only patented bamboo connection system that utilizes Guadua Bamboo Poles from the extreme ends so as to reduce redundancy in design. Esterillia Bamboo sheets are manufactured like ply wood using Guadua Bamboo poles ( a renewable resource) in a modern factory with high heat and pressure. The recycled boards are a combination of recycled plastic tin foil and paper pressed with heat in a form to create roofing panels. This innovative structure has a very broad appeal for the victims of disaster, housing for poor and the not so poor people who recognize the versatility of such a structure.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bamboo the Journey Home

The strange path of my life leads me down several roads filled with interesting intersections,a roundabout here and there a slow ride down a new street, yet some how I always end up back where I began in a different dimension of course.
Like the Tardis in Dr. Who my bamboo journey can be attributed to many intersections. my little company, the crazy idea turned full time endeavor. I have faced this question several times in my illustrious career in "The Bamboo Business". It seems that when people see what I am up to and how much I enjoy my work they feel compelled to ask the question of the origin of my company.

As the child of of a Colombian mother (check her blog out) and American father, international lawyer who enamored with cars and challenging roads always seemed to pick the less traveled road, not because it was less traveled but because the scenery seemed that much better and just on the other side of the hill, oh by the way we will be there very soon so put on your seat belt and don't distract the driver. My father a skilled driver would take some poor station wagon and modify it without my mothers permission then drive it so fiercely that the motor would end up exploding at a very inopportune time. The replacement motor would be some much larger displacement with polished this and ported that. When traveling to Colombia he would always look for the highest displacement car that would fit 6 Americans and go off though the country side from little town to little town my mother offering her historical references along the way.The view from a child's perspective... that of fear in the face of death as looking down some precariously high mountain roads if you can call them that, as father passed some slow moving donkey Cart. Imagine people in Dade County having to be patient enough to pass a donkey cart filled with coffee beans. The mountains and scenery of that country at the time were lost to us as children we were all obsessed with being Americans at least North Americans, the inventors of Rock and Roll hey we just went to the moon just a few years earlier,.Didn't we? Living in the United States as a child in the 70s was indeed a great experience, even though at the time the expenditure of resources did not seem to have the impact of today. We did live in the Bahamas for a while and there was never any need for sunscreen. In contrast today 30 min in the sun equals severe burning. The climate was noticeably less severe than today. We did live in the Bahamas for a while and there was never any need for sunscreen. In contrast today 30 min in the sun equals severe burning.When I was younger a teenager I don't think I appreciated the Andes mountains as much as I do today. Foolishly I just wanted to be back home in Miami with my friends . As children we were proud of the U.S. we had no idea we would be present at the beginning of the greatest challenge this planet has ever faced. However a card reading by some cheesy soothsayer at a school fair proclaimed I would work out side and it would be something to do with the environment. I did cut lawns for some time but surely that was not my calling.That idea stuck with me for many years. It wasn't till my brothers became teenagers and mind expansion became popular that anyone in my family would dare to question the politics and energy usage of this great nation. Then one day in 1976 or so I remember No Fuel, gas lines Jimmy Carter on T.V. Even as a child I knew that we were polluting the planet, remember the the crying "Native American" ( got to be PC these days) Its curious in South America, Europe the cars got smaller in the U.S. bigger homes bigger cars bigger people. For some reason at this time at a very young age I knew I had to contribute to a greener world so I planted these "tomato seeds" I found in my possession after my success with pineapple tops was noted by my siblings. Its very strange those tomato plants diapered one day.Fast forward a couple of decades the very worst hurricane to hit the U.S. Andrew takes out every tree every bush. To me, Hurricane Andrew is a significant point in a climatic shift on this planet as seen from the eyes of a South Floridian. This was a killer storm the first seen in several decades, it completely demolished Homestead and Florida City. The wrath of this storm destroyed countless homes property. The days after that were the hottest most humid I can remember. I had friends in the tree business who would tell me all you have to do is cut a branch off of a gumbo limbo plant and you would have a tree...this was amazing and because we had no shade I planted ever gumbo limbo stick I could lay my hands on. My previous experience with tomato plants and pineapple tops encouraged me to replant the wind blown desert that used to be a jungle. Even my friends got trees planted in their yards as gumbo limbo has soft wood there was no shortage after the winds of Andrew. Shade became a commodity ..enter bamboo I discovered at the American Bamboo Society sale at Fairchild Tropical Garden Plant plus water, watch it grow, amazing!! A few years later at the invitation of a friend I revisited Colombia for the first time in 20 years.We were traveling to a small farm El Ranchito and passed through a town called Guaduas, a name I recalled quickly from the bamboo collection at the tropical garden. The first time I saw Guadua Angustifolia at Fairchild Tropical garden I fearlessly approached and it greeted me with as its saber like thorns that quickly attached to my clothing like the tentacles of an octopus reaching to grab its pray. I have been attached to Guadua Angustifolia ever since. On that particular trip to Colombia I picked up a Book called Tropical Bamboo by Marcelo Villegas . The book shows every possible use of Guadua Bamboo poles and inspired my good friend Stew Mcleod (also a founder of Koolbamboo) and I to attempt a structure out of bamboo. The earliest examples of Simon Velez work totally drove us to seek out this material so we created Big Bamboo Trading Company Inc. 2001 when we could not find a supplier of this material. This material is so important because of its renew ability, flexibility, strength and beauty. Structures built out of the material have sustained severe has been committed to offering the very finest materials available including furniture, Guadua Bamboo Poles, Fencing, Kit structures. This path has led me back to my Colombian roots as I have traveled there quite often and rediscovered its most valuable resource, its inhabitants my family included. Today I am proud to come from such a rich dual heritage a very winding road, a thorny path at times. Guadua Angustifolia has become a very important material as it too has been rediscovered by the modern world by artists academics,architects and accidental travelers. Bamboo is everything men aspire to be; Strong Light Flexible, as it sways gently in the wind even as the world below shakes in anger.