Smiling Gecko and atelier oï have joined forces for an architecture project with a greater cause. Since our first encounter in 2018, a unique collaboration has evolved — a partnership with a big ambition. We have embarked on a common mission to create a unique Bamboo University of Applied Sciences, entirely built out of the local resource bamboo and in collaboration with the local community in rural Cambodia within an existing village about two hours north of the capital Phnom Penh.

The living and growing bamboo is not just a resource but is fully considered as part of the buildings. The architecture is designed and inspired by local, traditional knowledge — combining roof and platform to create bio-climatic environments. We want to bring the local knowledge of the skilled labourers to forefront using this sustainable and environmentally friendly building resource of incalculable value. In that sense, the climatic, economic and ecological conditions are part of our architectural project. Bamboo is an exceptional building material due to its flexibility in building techniques, with qualities such as cost-efficiency, resistance, lightness and strength. It is also the quickest growing plant in the world (in fact, some varieties grow more than one meter each day). Due to local factors such as a humid climate, frequent floods and tiphoons, the application of bamboo has become both tradition and the norm, but also the perfect medium for our architectural mission.

atelier oï believes the holistic approach between the architecture and the educational content is the key success factor to motivate the students to learn. The architecture should be a reflection of education and of the dreams and hope of the community students.

Smiling Gecko is an NGO founded in 2012 by Swiss photo-artist Hannes Schmid. Dedicated to fighting the causes of hunger and poverty in rural Cambodia and securing dignified work and a sustainable income, Smiling Gecko pursues a holistic approach with an open cluster module which is based on six intertwined pillars: agriculture, production, trade, industry and tourism, as well as education. The vision of Smiling Gecko is an exemplary model of a rural community that functions independently and curbs rural depopulation and urbanization while enabling relocation from the slums and poor quarters around Phnom Penh.

To make this unique project happen, a series of studies are planned throughout 2020. To test the concept and learn from a first realization, a prototype will be created in 2021, directly within the Smiling Gecko Project in Cambodia. Deeply moved by Smiling Gecko’s outstanding work, we hope to be able to contribute through this project, our savoir-faire and experience.

Education has the power to change Cambodia. Please reach out to to further exchange and contribute.

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