Architecture Students Experience Life-Size Learning With Bamboo Structures

Team one’s model, which was located near the DEC Center, features an angled roof to serve as a sunshade and resting place for visitors without obstructing their view.

The creation of scaled-down models is part of daily life in the world of architecture, but last month two teams of fifth-year architecture students from PhilaU’s Design X studio took on a much larger challenge.

The students were given the challenge of designing an observation point to replace existing structures in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste National Park. After much research, materials testing and collaboration with officials at the park, students built two full-scale versions of observation points made almost entirely of bamboo on campus.

“It was our first experience doing a design-build on campus,” architecture student Matthew Anderson said. “We problem-solved as a team to complete the project. We thought it would be compelling to come up with a structure entirely made of bamboo.”

The strength of bamboo appealed to both teams. The low cost of bamboo in Costa Rica was another factor considered in the design process. “Bamboo is readily available to them,” architecture student Ryan Kane said. “We tried to keep their budget in mind.”

The structures are intended to function as tourist attractions as well as lookout points for employees to spot potential fires and dangers within the park.

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Students chose bamboo as their primary building material for the Design X project.

Team one’s model, which was located near the DEC Center, had an angled roof to serve as a sunshade and resting place for visitors without obstructing their view. To strengthen the structure, lashings, rather than nails, were used to join the bamboo. This type of construction requires fewer tools and less precise measurements than more traditional construction, allowing for easy on-site placement in Guanacaste National Park.

The second team’s model, which was located by the Architecture & Design Center, consisted of a 12-feet tall observation deck with three platforms.  Students designed the tower to offer park visitors and employees better visibility, as well as protection from the elements.

“The most challenging aspect was also the best part of the project for me—the build,” architecture student Lauren Arrington said. “We did a lot of studies in preparation, but there are some things that have to be worked out as you go. When we would run into a problem we would step back, talk about possible solutions and the pluses and minuses of each, and then move forward. Now it’s amazing to say ‘I had a part in that.’”

The first team included students Matthew Anderson, Nathan Ellenberger, Ryan Kane, Michael Opdahl, Jesse Smith and Joshua Voshell. The second team included Lauren Arrington, Robert Garcia, Taylor Klemm, Brandon Runnels, Stephanie Smith and Dylan Wilson.

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