Architecture: Riprap-Library

Kolumb1(May 2008) A local river-bed offers the principal building-material for the award-winning library-project in Colombia. As reported by the german-language Baunetz-Newsletter and the spanish-language Noticias Arquitetura, the architects Miquel Torres, German Ramirez, Alejandro Pinol, and Carlos Meza, all unter 27 years of age, and completing their diploma at the Javeriana University in Bogotá, used caged riprap (so-called gabions) as a prime building material.

The prime aim was to keep the costs low by using local materials such as wood and gravel. The young architects were unperturbed that gabions tend to uniformity of shape. They opted for plain shapes for the entire building in order to lure the local population into the library building.

Gabions were probably first used around 1890 somewhere in Italy as a means to prevent shore-erosion. Their name originates from the Italian word for cage or basket „gabia“. They were later also used as retaining walls and noise-control along railway tracks and highways. Unlike plain concrete walls, they offer good adhesion and living-space for plants and small animals alike.

Gabions are rapidly gaining popularity among Architects. See e.g. the famous Dominus Winery in California by the architects Herzog and Meuron.