In this first installment of our new series featuring the work of renowned architectural photographer DEIDI VON SCHAEWEN, we take a look at a unique exhibition of Colombian architect and bamboo-master Simon Vélez's work, currently installed in the grounds of La Bambouseraie in the South of France.
It’s been around for a while, but the old criterion of ‘fitness for purpose’, which for decades has formed a cornerstone of the discourse of ‘good design’, is still as valid today as it’s ever been. Indeed, in the age of sustainability, it’s arguably never been so important.
Given internationally celebrated Columbian architect Simon Vélez’s long-term fascination with guadua bamboo (native to his homeland) as a cheap, robust and sustainable building material, applying it to a diversity of projects for a diversity of clients, it’s more than appropriate that an outdoor exhibition of his work should be mounted at La Bambouseraie, the botanical garden in Générargues, France, that contains one of the oldest bamboo collections in Europe. The fittingness of such a location underscores the fitness for purpose of the material in question, which progressive-thinking Vélez successfully applied to buildings for individuals, corporations and cities, a sustained approach to construction characterised by a high level of competence and precision, as well as considered use of resources and the employment of simple tools and techniques.
Curated by art historian Pierre Frey, professor at the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, the exhibition, entitled ‘Simon Vélez – Mastering Bamboo’ has been photographed by renowned architectural photographer Deidi von Schaewen, who, active since the 1960s, has amassed a prodigious body of work that ranges from the grands projets of starchitects to the vernacular architectural typologies, and across a broad geographical range also. Von Schaewen’s latest series of images and her short film are, mis-en-abyme-like, an artistic, photographic framing of, in turn, a collection of photographic images of Simon Vélez’s work shot by von Schaewen herself, which are installed physically throughout the grounds of la Bambouseraie. The latter are cleverly framed, literally, in – yes, you’ve guessed it – bamboo. The result is a compelling invitiation to see things anew, to question the relation of place to material.
Now, that’s fitting.