Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The central pavilion at the CAMBOO Festival in Freedom Park. Eliah Lillis

Through the weekend, Freedom Park will be showcasing examples of sustainable design, local crafts, art and concerts, in a first-time festival dedicated principally to bamboo and its use in construction.

Hosted by Building Trust International, a United Kingdom-based NGO working to promote sustainable development, CAMBOO Festival will highlight sustainable construction materials and practices. Bamboo pavilions, designed and built by the students from six engineering and architecture universities in Phnom Penh, will be on display.

David Cole, the director of BTI, says the idea of the festival emerged from his organisation’s original goal to draw the interest of young Cambodian designers, engineers and architects in using sustainable materials.

“We contacted the universities and asked if we could train the students in using bamboo,” Cole said. “Then we realised that the best way to do that would be to get in touch with the actual projects. We also felt that it was a great way to celebrate both the use of natural materials and Cambodia’s natural environment.”

For the last two months, the students have been taught how to use bamboo for building at BTI’s centre in Takhmao, where the material’s potential is being demonstrated in a country where it is generally considered as a short-lived substance for making chopsticks and baskets.

“When I started working with bamboo about five years ago, I was surprised by how useful this material is,” Cole said. “It has been used in modern ways in countries such as Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand. I think Cambodia is one of those countries which begins to exploit the potential of this material”

Among the showcased structures is the Hyperbamboo, the centre pavilion chosen as the winning design of BTI’s CAMBOO Design Challenge, an international competition involving designers all over the world. Selected from 70 entries, it is produced by the team of Roberto Bologna, Fernando Barth, Chiara Moretti and Denny Pagliai from Florence, Italy. Designs from BTI’s projects over the past five years, such as a bamboo school building in Takeo province, will also be displayed.

In addition to seeing a wide range of unique designs, attendees will be able to engage in activities like building workshops, meditation, salsa classes and live music, from bands like the Cambodian Space Project, Hypnotic Fist Technique and Oscar’s house band Khmenglish.

Visitors can also purchase from “eco-stalls”, which sell local natural products such as Mondulkiri honey, as well as food and drinks from BTI’s partners like Farm to Table, La Familia and La Pops!

Though he speculates that most attendees will be students and people working in art, design and modern architecture, he hopes that professionals from all walks of life will come to the festival to get a glimpse of local craftsmanship and to encourage the designers and architects of the future towork with sustainable material.

The CAMBOO Festival will be open to the public with free admission from tonight until April 1 from10am-9pm, at Freedom Park on Street 53.