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Competition: Bamboo Pavilion, Cambodia

Building Trust International has launched an open international design contest for a temporary bamboo pavilion in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (Deadline: 17 March)

Open to teams and individuals, the anonymous single-stage competition seeks proposals for a temporary structure constructed entirely from bamboo to occupy a prominent site within Freedom Park in the centre of the Cambodian capital.

The winning scheme will form the centrepiece of the CAMBOO: 2017 bamboo festival, which is being held in the city later this year. Nine further honourable mentions will also be awarded.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Source: Image by Google Earth

Competition site: Freedom Park

In its brief, Building Trust International says: ‘Our latest design challenge is to propose a central temporary structure which will act as a showcase for the material and as a gathering space for events throughout the festival.

‘We want the most creative, forward-thinking ideas, which push the already amazing portfolio of bamboo projects that are out there. We aim to build the winning design and capture the minds of the public, overcoming the widespread stigma that bamboo is a poor material, and firmly set Cambodia as a place where modern architecture and traditional building materials can combine.’

Phnom Pen is Cambodia’s capital and most populous city. The settlement, on the banks of the Tonlé Sap and Mekong River, is famous for its historic architecture including the 1372 Wat Phnom pagoda and the Royal Palace erected during French colonial occupation.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Source: Image by crchim

Freedom Park

The competition site, Freedom Park, is a 1.2ha plaza located a short distance south of Wat Phnom. The site has been earmarked for political protests since 2010, and has hosted many demonstrations by the Cambodia National Rescue Party against the country’s long-reigning prime minister Hun Sen.

Building Trust International is a non-profit charity set up in 2010 to harness design to tackle global problems and help people, wildlife and the planet. Previous competitions have focused on delivering sustainable schools, housing and public spaces around the world.

The latest contest aims to showcase bamboo as a sustainable building material and provide a gathering space for events throughout the CAMBOO festival. Bamboo can have tensile properties stronger than steel, and typically takes five years to reach maturity, compared to 30 years for a tree.

Proposals should provide shelter from the rain and sun, be fully and easily demountable and relocatable, and require minimal groundworks. Submissions will be evaluated on their imaginative use of the material, ease of construction, originality, aesthetics, cost, functionality and sustainability.

Submissions should include a single A2-sized landscape format PDF presentation board featuring sketches, perspectives, plans, sections, elevations and a project description and cost estimate.

The judging panel – yet to be announced – will feature Building Trust International team members and local bamboo construction experts.

How to apply


The registration deadline is 17 March and submissions must be completed by 20 March


Early bird registration from 16 to 22 January: £25
Advance registration from 23 January to 5 February: £50
Final registration from 6 February to 3 March: £75

Contact details

Building Trust International


View the competition website for more information

One With the Birds pavilion case study: Q&A with Chris Precht

The head of Beijing-based architecture studio Penda discusses lessons learned designing a modular bamboo pavilion for use around the world

How did you arrive at your concept for a modular rope-bound pavilion?

Through physical models. Bamboo is a very physical and imperfect material. The computer on the other hand is a tool to create perfect models and it takes more effort to implement ‘imperfection’. Also bamboo is a linear material and creates structure by combining bamboo canes with each other. It’s an architecture of the joint, and to develop a joint, it’s important to build models and mock-ups to understand the structure. Usually we work a lot with the computer, but since we started to work with bamboo around two years ago, our studio turned into a workshop.



One With the Birds pavilion by Penda

Which architectural, material and other methods did you harness?

The foundation and the roof are critical elements for a bamboo building. Bamboo does not like water or heat, so it’s crucial to protect the material. As mentioned, a bamboo structure lives by its joints. For our joints, we have developed so called ‘spacers’ which transfers the forces and weights to neighbouring columns. We use old car-tyres and cut them. The rubber is ideal to prevent friction between the columns, and gives us the necessary space to tie up the joints. These spacers also offer us an element of certain flexibility within the whole structure…



One With the Birds pavilion by Penda

What advice would you have to participants on designing a landmark bamboo pavilion in Phnom Penh?

Well, I guess the most important thing is to fall in love with the material and with the site. In both cases that is very easy. Cambodia is breathtaking; and the more you work and explore bamboo, the more it surprises you. Because bamboo is natural and imperfect, it has a strong character on its own. Try to find a system that supports the material’s imperfection in a perfect way.



One With the Birds pavilion by Penda