"Stronger than oak, lighter than steel", was the headline - in Dutch newspaper Trouw - above a picture of Colombia's 'bamboo' architect, Simón Vélez. He was recently awarded the main 2009 Prince Claus Prize for his designs using bamboo. The prize provides an opportunity for him to introduce his work to the Netherlands. Plans to construct an open-air podium in North Amsterdam are already at an advanced stage.
Mr Vélez combines modern architecture with traditional building materials. He has designed over 200 buildings using bamboo. Most of them are in Colombia, but his work can also be seen in Brazil and even India and China.
The Prince Claus Fund says Simón Vélez' work promotes sustainable development, introducing new ideas on ecological issues and questions. The citation describes him as an architect "whose aesthetic and technical innovations have considerably expanded the possibilities of bamboo as a building material, providing a challenge to prevailing architectural trends".
Bamboo is native to nearly all the world's continents, with the exception of Europe. It is lighter than steel and stronger than concrete. In addition, bamboo constructions have been shown to withstand earthquakes better and to be more energy efficient than other buildings.