“Have you ever wondered how nature gets its glow? Who gives it light and color as the seasons come and go?” goes the opening line of the movie Tinkerbell, which I am sure each one of us has seen. Do you remember when Clank and Bobble gives a tour of the Pixie Hollow and shows Tinkerbell her home? Well, that home one of the most adorable ones! I am sure in the fantasy land of nature lovers that is the kind of home we all would picture in our minds. The structure of this home is neatly knit branches of a tree with a dramatic overhanging roof made of giant leaves. A circular door marks the entrance to her home, the jamb is twined and twisted twigs like that of a nest. The interiors of this house look specially customized and handcrafted as if this fantasy land is one of the pockets in Bali.
The potential of bamboo in architecture is undeniable. However, bamboo architecture can maximize its role and power; we need to act more to show technical and artistic values of bamboo projects. Let me tell you a story of a Balinese girl – Elora Hardy, the protagonist of the fantasy land. She is crazy enough to dream, design, and build such structures for real! When she was nine, her mother gave her a chance to design her very own house, and this what she drew. It’s a fairy mushroom house. She grew up in Bali with extraordinarily creative parents. She took her designing very seriously and then she built her fairy mushroom house. The roof is just a big bamboo basket.
When she grew up, she knew she had to use her creative potential and for that, she moved to art school in the States and after eight years of training, she realized that she didn’t want to be a gallery artist so she had to get a job. She moved to New York City and worked with one of the most successful and talented fashion designers in the world and was allowed to follow her passion. She painted on fabrics and learned that fashion was about the tone and texture of the moment. After acing in New York City, she found herself thinking about her future and that brought her back to Bali.
Her father, John Hardy, had planted a seedling in front of his house when she had moved to New York, and when she came back after 5 years, she found a giant clump of Bamboo. A bamboo shoot in 3 months reaches its full height, and in 3 years it becomes fully mature for harvest owning the tensile strength of steel and the compressive strength of concrete. This clump will provide 20 or more poles of timber every year for the rest of our lives.
Bamboo is Asia’s favourite scaffolding material. This overgrown grass has serious potential. Up to very recently, it was very difficult to protect bamboo from insects and treating it with Borax, which a natural salt, turns bamboo into a permanent building material.
John, from Bali, built big dreams out of bamboo and this stack of poles became the magnificent heart of Green School. His daughter, Elora quit her glamorous life in New York City and moved back to Bali to become a part of the promise for the future. She founded her company IBUKU that creates magical spaces, inspired by nature. IBUKU believes in a hopeful, inspirational world were innovating with natural materials, especially bamboo, connects people with nature. They see a chance to design spaces that give people the experience of wonder. A team is an incredible group of people pioneering a future consisting of young professionals, artisans, builders, designers, architects, and engineers.
Their design process occurs on the land and for the land. The houses are tailored to gently rest on their foundation, carefully set in the earth’s natural contour so that they have minimal impact on the environment. Instead of conventional blueprints, they create to-scale structural models made of hand-whittled bamboo sticks. These models are replicated in a 3D line in computer programs for their engineers to study and confirm that the building adheres to our strict codes. The design process doesn’t end there. The architects and engineers then follow the project in-depth through completion to ensure structural integrity and longevity. Like any natural fibre, bamboo must be protected from the sun and rain. The dramatic overhanging roof and tilting structural columns are designed to protect the villas for the long-term. To prevent moisture, our structural beams are secured by steel and concrete to large river rock stones. These are in turn secured within the earth’s foundation by steel rods reaching down several meters, as determined bya team of structural engineers.
IBUKU is only one unstoppable company of dreamers to bring up about. So far, this company had done unique projects holding onto only one sustainable material – bamboo that is ever-growing in the region and available in the bounty. Their creative experimentation has left no stones unturned to make their crazy dreams into reality. However, I am sure there are many many more across the world who are innovating each day using the potential of bamboo. Across Asia, bamboo is everywhere from chopsticks to scaffolding for skyscrapers! For Balinese, it is the bed they are born in, the house they grow up with and the cremation pyre when their soul leaves their body. Bamboo has been used in daily life this way for tens of thousands of years across the tropical regions of the world. There are islands, even continents, first reached by bamboo rafts. But untreated bamboo gets eaten to dust. So, some people think that you couldn’t be poor enough, or rural enough to want to live in a bamboo house. This brings me to an alarming question – what would it take to change their minds; to convince people that bamboo was worth building with much less worth aspiring to? Until today, where bamboo can make your fantasy of dreamland come true and is defining a new way to luxury, the luxury of being connected to nature.