12 December 2012

Bamboo structures going up

Take a look at our amazing bamboo structures! The building is finally beginning to look like it's supposed to. The bamboos are a refreshing change after all the concrete and earth blocks and soften the appearance of the building nicely.

26 November 2012

Great progress on site!

Time flies when we're having fun at the site! So much so that there haven't been as many posts here as could have been. Everything is going well! 

14 November 2012

Making of bamboo elements

Bamboo construction is a long process and consists of many different stages. In our case the process has been especially long because of our problems with the schedule and the contractor so I will remind you what has already been done before going to the actual topic. Firstly you have to locate and harvest the bamboos which happens in Bamboo in Takeo ProvinceKhmer Bamboo in Kroch Chhma and Chinese Bamboo in Tmoa Pum Village. Then the bamboos have to be treated properly against pests etc. which is described in Treating Bamboos and in Bamboo Preparations Continue with Kevin. Thirdly the bamboos have to be sorted and measured which is explained in Measuring Bamboos and oiled carefully with a UV-resistant wood oil to protect them from rain and sun. If you just pile the bamboos up randomly like we did, you have to sort them again before starting the construction: Back to Bamboo Business. And now to making the elements...

28 October 2012

Back to bamboo business

Early this week the workers finished the entire concrete frame structure and started to take down the formwork. More importantly still we got back to working with the bamboos! When I left in August the bamboos were tucked in under the tarpaulins and left there so I was quite nervous when we removed the tarpaulins after three months of heavy rains.

07 October 2012

KOMITU has returned to Cambodia

Greetings from the future class room upstairs! After seven weeks of absence KOMITU has returned to Phnom Penh. I will stay here until Christmas and if everything goes well the youth center should be finished by the time I leave. And so far everything has been going more than well!

18 September 2012

We have a floor and more!

It is almost unreal to see that finally, after half a year of hard work and countless setbacks, the floor slab and frame columns of the ground floor of the youth center have been cast! Kudos to our new contractor Mr Heang, site manager Mr Kimsour and everyone working at the site for making this happen. In just six weeks they have demolished the foundations and ground beam of poor quality by the previous contractor and replaced them with new ones. In addition they have cast the ground slab and frame columns for the ground floor. Big thanks goes also to Bryse Gaboury and Sona Seng from AE Consultants firstly for introducing us to Mr Heang and secondly for the professional site inspections and for keeping us informed about the happenings on the site while we are all in Finland.  I will return to Cambodia next week and who knows, maybe I'll be able to walk on the first floor then...
(Photos by AE Consultants)

06 August 2012

Meet our new contractor!

Greetings from Cambodia! The long radio silence from this side of the worlds has been due to some unfortunate set backs in our building process. According to our original construction schedule the entire building was supposed to be ready on June 15th. The deadline was pushed forward several times but by mid July even the foundations were not ready, material deliveries and work were delayed repeatedly, the quality of the work was poor, workers were going on strike due to unpaid salaries, the community was getting restless and it became obvious that something needed to be done. Hence we unfortunately had to let our contractor go two weeks ago. Before he left the site, he was finally able to produce the long awaited ground beam but unfortunately in such poor quality that it has to be taken down and recast.

30 July 2012

EASA Wastelands REFUGE workshop in Helsinki

Some news from Helsinki for a while! Three of the members of Komitu Architects, Noora, Tuuli and Inari were tutoring a workshop as part of the European Architecture Students Assembly EASA in Helsinki 16.7.-29.7.2012. The workshop was called Refuge and we were working together with the Hirundo center for European migrants and travellers.

02 July 2012

Social relations and bamboo swings

After nearly two weeks of absence KOMITU has returned to Phnom Penh and boy is it good to be back! Having recovered from the surprising culture shock and flue I caught on my return I was excited to visit the site. Unfortunately there hadn't been as much progress as we had hoped for due to some problems with material logistics etc. but I really saw the shape of the building for the first time with my own eyes today which was great! 

18 June 2012

Sustainable Building -workshop with STT

On Saturday 9.6. we organized a workshop "Sustainable Building and Ecological Materials" together with ngo Sahmakum Teang Tnaut STT. More than 30 participants attended, most of them students from local universities Rufa and Norton. We went trough the most important phases in using bamboo and even got some practical experience of building the roof beams for the center.

13 June 2012

The manual timelapse: week 23 on site

Almost all of the footings are now in place and hopefully casting of the ground beam will be done still this week! KKYC, we're going up!

So long KKYC - hope to see you soon!

It was very wistful saying again goodbye to the great team of workers working for the realization of the youth center on the site! Hope to see you all soon!

Sisko will be staying in Phnom Penh for another week now and Elina will be coming back for July, but let's see how far the construction has got by then and if members from Komitu are still needed on site during the fall.

06 June 2012

Foundation work continues

Progress on site! This is a picture from the end of last week just before the few days holiday for the Cambodian communal elections. The brickwork forms a mold for the concrete ground beam which will probably be casted by the end of this week. And what's best about it that one can already start to see the shape of the building forming up!

04 June 2012

Welcome to workshop on KKYC site on Sat 9th of June!

Interested in learning about the use of bamboo in construction? And of the advantages of the compressed soil bricks compared to the commonly used red bricks? And how to design a building that keeps the spaces cool without an AC?

Welcome to workshop on "Sustainable Building and Ecological Materials" on Saturday 9th of June 2012 on the Kouk Khleang Youth Center building site! We have places for 25 participants so please sign in before hand by email to den(a)teangtnaut.org from STT or inari.virkkala(a)gmail.com and sisko.hovila(a) gmail.com from Komitu!

Casting the concrete footings

The footings are almost done! Due to the loose sand used for the filling as well as using mainly man power instead of machinery, it has taken a lot of time to finish the underground parts of the building. Even though it is nowadays raining almost every afternoon, we could prevent the footing pits turning into rainwater ponds by filling them soon after digging with riprap (large stones). Stones would be compacted and lay concrete casted on top to make the base for the actual footing. Hopefully things will start proceeding faster now that the toughest part is done!

30 May 2012

Restaurant day in Helsinki

A week ago on saturday Komitu held a pop-up restaurant in Helsinki to bring cambodian delicacies to taste. A lot of friends showed up and passers-by stopped to have a tasty meal or a refreshing smoothie with cambodian music to complete the experience. Both of the main dishes and smoothie choises were sold out before five and after the expenses some money was left to donate for the youth center project. The most important of course was that food and weather were good and we all had a wonderful Restaurant Day!

KKYC Construction Crew

From left: Phal (site implementation), Inari, Mom the II, Mom, Narin (site manager), Save, Na, Chaet, Pollaa, Peter (contractor), Sreng (site supervisor) and the Kids.
Missing from the picture: Van, Saa, Mie, Cheth

Komitu Architects proudly presents: KKYC Construction Crew!
To be accurate, the picture was taken on Monday this week (just before two people were picked up by scooter from their homes from a post-salary-day-sabbatical-leave). During the past few days our crew has expanded by 1-2 people each day – Thanks to the people, we are now progressing on gear 5! By a quick look to the site today, there are 6 men plus the site managers Pol and Sreng, and three women. We have now been able to form two teams:
  • The bamboo team (the ladies) is in the middle of oiling the ready made bamboo beams and columns with a certain kind of vegetable oil.
  • The concrete team (men) will continue with the footings work a few more days before starting the ground beam casting.
A truckful of red bricks for the septic tank arrived on site today, so perhaps soon we will have a brick team also.

Beautiful floor tiles in the corner of streets 163 and 104

On our way home from the site we spotted very beautiful floor tiles in a shop in the corner of streets 163 and 104. Unfortunately the shop was closed so we couldn't go inside to ask about the prices.

Those of you reading the blog and living in Phnom Penh - do you know some other shops that are selling these kind of "vintage-looking" tiles? Please send us email or comment in the KKYC facebook-page!

22 May 2012

Day 5 on site

The foundation work is proceeding slowly so not much news to tell. However, here are some photos from one working day on the site for you to get an idea what's going on.

20 May 2012

Back in Phnom Penh!

Sisko and Inari arrived to Phnom Penh last Wednesday. The construction of the center is going way slower than estimated; mostly because of daily rain and the challenging starting point. We will have to work hard and smart to keep up with the schedule to get the center's roof up before the heaviest rains in August, September and October. Luckily there will be more workers coming on site on Monday and we will be able to start working in teams which hopefully makes the work more pleasant and fun and also helps us to proceed in a faster pace.

04 May 2012

Farewell / start up party

Just as we were getting ready to go back home to Finland with Tuuli, the site was getting ready for the actual construction work so we decided to have a party in Kouk Khleang to bring together the workers, community members and future users of the youth center. We handed out flyers and brought the scale model on site so people would be better informed of what was actually happening in their neighborhood. We had a great time eating, drinking and dancing. Thank you everyone who has been a part of this amazing experience so far and also to everyone who will continue to take part in the future!

25 April 2012

Communication through scale models

When working with people with whom you don't have any common language, scale models are by far the best way to communicate your design. We have tried to use models as much as possible throughout our design process here in Cambodia and that process got one more mile stone in it when Tuuli and I took our 1/30 scale model to the site today. Everyone was thrilled and the workers were really excited when they started to realize where the building is going to sit on the site and where exactly all the bamboo parts they have been making are going to go.

21 April 2012

A blessing ceremony at the site

Here in Cambodia it is customary to arrange a blessing ceremony for the building site before construction starts or "before digging the first hole" as our contacts told us. Foundation works are scheduled to start today so we organized the ceremony early this morning. Luckily there is an old priest living next to our site and he agreed on running the ceremony.

17 April 2012

Measuring the bamboos

(Photo by Kevin Rowell)

A lot has happened during the past weeks on the site especially with the bamboos. During and after our two-week learning period with Kevin the work has progressed nicely. The last batch of bamboos are being prepared for treatment, the first batch has been almost completely turned into elements already and the rest are somewhere in between.

15 April 2012

Kouk Khleang Youth Centre Project published in FuturArc - the Voice of Green Architecture in Asia - magazine vol 25!

Creative children around the site

(Photo by Kevin Rowell)

There are a lot of children in Cambodia and there are also many of them running around the community which we work in. Most of them, as children usually are, have been quite creative in finding ways to enjoy the changing situations at the site.

ASEAN People's Forum

In late March we got the chance to visit the ASEAN People's Forum that was organized here in Phnom Penh and Maude got to interview Somony from CVS during a meeting break.

Our photographer Montana visiting the site

During our project we are cooperating with a young local photographer Montana Rakz. He will be following the realization of the Kouk Khleang Youth Center during this year by visiting the site several times. Last week his first visit to the site took place and the results were terrific.

14 April 2012

The site is finally flat

Ladies and gentlemen, our site has finally been completely filled just in time for the Khmer New Year Holidays this weekend. It took us eight weeks, lots of waiting, a pump, an excavator, cutting down some trees and about 300 truck loads of sand to get the whole thing filled. While emptying the site we didn't run into any corpses or such which we thought was possible considering the color and consistence of the matter in the pit. We did find a 1m long, black snake though. Next week we can finally start the foundation works for the Youth Center! Take a look back to what the site used to look like…

25 March 2012

Bamboo preparations continue with Kevin

After Kevin arrived on Monday, our work with the bamboo became much more accurate thanks to his expertise and equipment he brought with him.

Who is this man?

Since we decided to take on the challenge of using materials that we, ourselves, have next to no experience of, we realized we needed some guidance and decided to find ourselves a consultant specialized on bamboo and earth structures. 

That's when we found Kevin Rowell. Kevin runs a company called The Natural Builders in California. The Natural Builders collaborate with artists, building professionals and individuals around the world in a range of fields from the creation of ecological spaces, to the development of new materials, to the understanding and improvement of vernacular building techniques. He has also worked in Haiti, Thailand and Laos among other countries in different development projects. 

And now he is here in Phnom Penh with us for two weeks which we are extremely excited about!

24 March 2012

Visiting Orussey market

All photos in this post by Kevin Rowell

This week we visited the Orussey market in search for the tools we need for our bamboo construction. We were happy to find everything we need and also piles and piles of things that we don't actually need but were interesting to come across anyway.

Sewage pit turned into a sand pit

If you thought (as we did) that emptying some water and organic matter from the bottom of a big, open hole would be quite a straightforward thing to do, you were mistaken. If we had a tank truck in our use and wide, durable roads for it to drive on, things would be different but as we don't, several measures have been taken before the actual emptying work which is due to happen next week.

20 March 2012

The bamboo fun starts!

On Monday our bamboo consultant Kevin Rowell arrived and we are very happy to have him! First thing from the airport we took him to see the conditions on the site.

16 March 2012

Treating the bamboos

Bamboo is a very sustainable and also durable material as long as you treat and maintain it correctly. A post of maintaining the bamboo structures will follow later but currently we are working on the pre-treatment.

09 March 2012

Finally things are starting to happen at the site! The first patch of bamboos has been cleaned, treatment pools are ready and holes through the nodes are being punched. This morning half of the bamboos were in the pool. Canopy was not steep enough and broke last night in the rain, but it is being fixed. The only thing lacking now are the treatment chemicals, which we are buying from CBET project in Chi Pat because local shops don't have the chemicals in stock, they need to be ordered weeks beforehand.

06 March 2012

Visit to Oudong

Last week we visited Oudong which used to be the capital of Cambodia before Phnom Penh was and which today is the new home to many poor people who get evicted from the center of Phnom Penh because of different city development projects. Hilla Rudanko and Anssi Kankkunen designed and built a vocational school (which has been mentioned in this blog before as well) for one of these relocation sites las year. Now they are back in Cambodia fixing some problems that have occurred during the first year of the school's existence.

29 February 2012

The Bamboo has arrived!

Today we found that the bamboo had arrived! It is beautiful. The treatment pools are almost ready as well so we hope to have first batch in the pool by Friday. Chemicals were ordered today and tomorrow we'll begin with brushing the fungus and dirt of the bamboo trunks.

Peter and the workers had also started with the emptying of the site. The sewage water will first be pumped out of the pool and then then the vegetation removed. Today they built the machine for pumping the water. Also the kids from the village were really excited to see what was happening!

27 February 2012

Museum of Ethnology

Yesterday Elina and I had the honour to visit Dr. Michel Tranet and his family at their house. This is not just any house. It is one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever visited. The atmosphere here is a combination of deep knowledge and respect for the Khmer culture and beauty. Mr. Tranet has had the house built for his family and his collection of historical Khmer artifacts. The house is not only a home but   also a 'Museum of Ethnology'. The house itself, built with wood and stone acts as an example of architecture built according to the local culture and climate. Thank you Michel and Khiang Hei!

We have a hole!

Today Elina and I were so happy when we arrived at the site to see a big pile of earth! The earth had come from digging a hole. The hole will be our bamboo treatment pool! So finally things got going at the site and we are starting to believe the building will actually become reality. During the site visit we also said our final goodbyes to the dirt in the pool as they will start pumping it out very soon. This is all very exciting!

25 February 2012

Startup at the site

On Friday we had the startup meeting at the building site which went well. After the meeting together with the contractor we marked the spots for the bamboo treatment pools which will be the first thing to be done at the site. The bamboos will arrive by Wednesday so hopefully the pools will be ready by then.

Our first bamboos were bought!

On Thursday we travelled once again to Kampong Cham province which Noora already visited some time ago to see and this time actually buy the first truck load of bamboo for the youth center. 

Handling practical matters in Phnom Penh

Elina's first days back in Phnom Penh were filled with handling different practical matters. First on Tuesday we opened a bank account for our project which turned out to be a bit more time consuming than we expected. When you go to a bank in Finland you usually get a waiting number, you wait for a while and then you get attended on by one person. This time it went somewhat different. Door was opened by smiling person, we were escorted upstairs by another and there we were attended on by at least five more. After having opened the account we were escorted upwards again and were attended on by four more people helping us to deposit money. Different kinds of original documents were needed and Elina also had to learn to do her signature exactly the way she did six years ago when she got her passport and signed it. It remains to be seen whether she ever manages to sign the withdrawal papers correctly or is our money lost forever.

21 February 2012

Join bamboo workshop on the KKYC site!

Learn to build out of bamboo in Cambodia!

Welcome to join the building works of Kouk Khleang Youth Center, designed by young architects and students from Aalto University in Finland. The main building materials of the center are ecological unfired earth bricks and bamboo.

A workshop on the bamboo structures with american bamboo expert Kevin Rowell will take place in Phnom Penh on 20.-31.3.2012, after which the construction with the bamboo structures will continue until the end of April. For more info on the possibility to study the bamboo structures on site, please contact inari.virkkala@gmail.com.

Hurrah! Signing the building contract for KKYC

Komitu is super happy to announce that the KKYC finally has a contractor! On Sunday 19.2. the buiding contract was signed by the cliens: Pen Somony fron CVS and Son Young from KKKHRDA and by the main contractor, Peter Khalid from the company Sadiq International.

KKYC Materials workshop

On Friday 17.9. we organized a workshop in Kouk Khleang to discuss the project with the locals and to familiarize everybody with the main materials for the Youth Center: UPDF unfired soil bricks and bamboo.  First we presented and discussed the project and the materials and afterwards built an example piece of the unfired bricks to be used for testing different plasters and paints.

14 February 2012

Building the sewage pool for Kouk Khleang in 2004

Miraculously Architect Meas Kim Seng had found pictures from his archives of the construction of the Sewage Pool in Phnom Penh. Great to see how the pool was built and to be able to design the foundations accordingly! And how quickly did the plants grow!