Playa Man, Galapagos
The Municipality of San Cristobal, Galapagos, asked The Scarcity and Creativity Studio to build a shade shelter with showers as part of the municipal project to refurbish and build new facilities in the main beach of Baquerizo Moreno Port. The project was designed and build in a period of slightly more than two weeks. The reasons for the short design/build period are explained below.
Having arrived is Galapagos to find that the project we were prepared to build had to be cancelled (see: http://scs.aho.no/the%20wall.htm), the SCS team had financing, four weeks in Galapagos, and no project. We then approached several local institutions with a view to obtaining a commission to design and build a project. Four possible projects emerged from this initiative: 1. A bridge over a causeway in a new park the Municipality of San Cristobal was building. 2. A building for yoga training in the highlands 3. A police tower to catch cattle thieves. 4. A shade shelter in Playa Man.
The SCS studio decided to opt for the shade shelter project in Playa Man. As time was now at a premium, SCS organised a three days internal architectural competition, starting with individual projects, choosing the ideas with most potential to develop further, until the final project was chosen. As we had purchased the bamboo for the previously cancelled project this mad to be the main building material. The project was built in two weeks, many of the details previously developed for the cancelled Scouts Centre project were used. The project provides shade to users of Playa Man as well as providing three open air showers.
Bamboo grows locally and it is ready to be used in construction after only four years. However in Galapagos it is considered a ‘poor persons’ building material and thus seldom used. The SCS team was pleasantly surprised at how many locals praised the use of bamboo and hope that the Playa Man project will have some influence in the reconsideration of this strong and sustainable building material.
Images and Plans
The Playa Man shade shelter was entirely built of bamboo, except for the concrete point foundations and the Canalplast roof covering. Bamboo was chosen because it is one of the few renewable local building materials in Galapagos.
Although there are more than 1500 species of bamboo only a few are suitable for building. Guadua angustifolia, native to South America and grown in Galapagos, the species we used, is considered one of the most suited to construction. Given that it is ready for use only four years after planting, it is a highly renewable building material.
In addition bamboo is as strong as steel, flexible and elastic, thus offering excellent resistance to the forces of earthquakes.
However, bamboo contains high levels of starch (sugars) which attract insects such as termites and powder-post beetles, so that without proper harvesting and treatment it lasts only a few years. Because bamboo is not naturally resistant against biological degrading organisms it needs to be very well protected from ground humidity and rain. This imposes severe limitations in terms of architectural design, especially noticeable in the large roof cantilevers which are necessary all around bamboo buildings.
As this was the first building which SCS built in bamboo there was a steep learning curve involved. Bamboo joints, as well as splitting bamboo to make panels and roof planes, proved particularly time consuming.