Projects of 2021 that celebrate the inventiveness of bamboo in architecture

STIR looks back at five projects that demonstrated intriguing applications of this woody grass in the areas of architecture, interior design, and temporary urban spaces.

by Zohra KhanPublished on : Dec 31, 2021

World over, particularly in countries like China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Colombia, architects are experimenting with a material that possesses not only extreme versatility in terms of its structural strength but also for its aesthetic and environmental value. Vo Trong Nghia, Marina Tabassum, Anna Heringer, Realrich Sjarief, Vinu Daniel, and Simón Vélez are some of the contemporary practitioners who are building an incredibly innovative and inspirational body of work using bamboo as a key architectural material. Elsewhere, the biomaterial's flexibility (a higher compressive strength than wood, brick or concrete, and a tensile strength on par with steel), lightness, affordability, and the ability to speedily renew itself, combined with its quality to evoke nostalgia, have found key inspiration in countless projects built this year. Ranging from residences, housing complexes, to hotels, restaurants, retail outlets, landscape design and urban pavilions, the list which includes much more is all encompassing. While one could say that it would probably take decades for bamboo to entirely replace conventional building materials, the use of bamboo architecture to define spaces of transience, of congregation, and their contribution in turn to urban edifices is undeniable.

As we close 2021 today, STIR looks back at five projects that demonstrated intriguing applications of this woody grass in the areas of architecture, interior design, and temporary urban spaces.

1. The Arc by IBUKU
Location: Bali, Indonesia

  • The structure comprises of a series of pointed 14m high bamboo arches forming planar anticlastic grid-shells | Bamboo Architecture Roundup | Best of 2021 | STIRworld
    The structure comprises a series of pointed 14m high bamboo arches forming planar anticlastic grid-shells Image: Tommaso Riva
  • The Arc has a pavilion-like open layout providing for a flexible functionality | Bamboo Architecture Roundup | Best of 2021 | STIRworld
    The Arc has a pavilion-like open layout providing for a flexible functionality Image: Tommaso Riva
  • The Arc has a pavilion like open layout providing for a flexible functionality | Bamboo Architecture | Best of 2021 | STIRworld
    Designed as a community wellness space and gymnasium, The Arc bears a soft, experiential quality in the space it encloses Image: Tommaso Riva
  • The intricate bamboo assembly holding the roof structure| Bamboo Architecture | Best of 2021 | STIRworld
    The intricate bamboo assembly holding the roof structure Image: Tommaso Riva

The Arc is a community wellness space and a gymnasium inside The Green School in Bali - a name synonymous with hands-on education in sustainable design practices, especially in the realm of bamboo architecture. The shaded pavilion-like structure features a porous and flexible spatial layout spread over 760 square metres of relatively open space, typical of other bamboo structures in the school complex. Swooping, sinuous arches headline the intervention, spanning a total of 19 meters. At its highest point, the pointed bamboo arches intersect to form anticlastic grid-shells that are then repeated in a planar manner to form the bamboo pavilion's elaborate roof, a feat of resourceful engineering fused with a solution lying at the intersection of parametricism and high-tension roof systems.

2. Piyandeling by RAW Architecture
Location: Mekarwangi Village, West Java – Bandung, Indonesia

  • Façade of the Kujang building| Bamboo Architecture | Best of 2021 | STIRworld
    Façade of the Kujang building Image: Eric Dinardi
  • The open layout is surrounded by hyperboloid balustrades constructed with bent bamboo | Bamboo Architecture | Best of 2021 | STIRworld
    The open layout is surrounded by hyperboloid balustrades constructed with bent bamboo Image: Eric Dinardi
  • The underground prayer room | Bamboo Architecture | Best of 2021 | STIRworld
    The underground prayer room Image: Eric Dinardi
  • The interiors of the building are also designed using intricately carved bamboo and traditional crafts | Bamboo Architecture | Best of 2021 | STIRworld
    The interiors of the building are also designed using intricately carved bamboo and traditional crafts Image: Eric Dinardi

Realrich Architecture Workshop has attempted to create a sanctuary space using bamboo and local craftsmanship with the Piyandeling project. Located in a remote area of Mekarwangi village in Bandung, the project builds on the “tectonic grammar” that the firm, headed by Realrich Sjarief, and its elaborate work is known for. Consisting of three structures: a private family home named ‘Sumarah’, an open hall space for learning named ‘Kujang’, and a studio and future dental centre called ‘Saderhana’, the architecture reveals extraordinary ornamental aesthetics crafted in bamboo.

3. Bamboo Bamboo, Canopy and Pavilions by IILab.
Location: Yangshuo County, China

  • IILab. harnesses the abundance of bamboo in the surrounding context to create an architectural system that blended into the setting | Bamboo Architecture | Best of 2021 | STIRworld
    IILab. harnesses the abundance of bamboo in the surrounding context to create an architectural system that blended into the setting Image: Courtesy of Arch-Exist Photography
  • Woven bamboo lanterns formed the first arm of the intervention | Bamboo Architecture | Best of 2021 | STIRworld
    Woven bamboo lanterns formed the first arm of the interventionImage: Courtesy of Arch-Exist Photography
  • The roof seemingly floats above the ground, held aloft only by a few columns concealed within tangled bamboo structure | Bamboo Architecture | Best of 2021 | STIRworld
    The roof seemingly floats above the ground, held aloft only by a few columns concealed within tangled bamboo structureImage: Courtesy of Arch-Exist Photography
  • Structural diagram and a view of the lantern under construction | Bamboo Architecture | Best of 2021 | STIRworld
    Structural diagram and a view of the lantern under construction Image: Courtesy of IILab.

Amidst soaring tower karsts of rock and lush vegetation in the tourist friendly area of Yangshuo County near the Chinese city of Guilin, Shanghai-based studio IILab. has designed a charming formal point of interaction and gathering for viewers coming to see the nightly light show, Impression Sanjie Liu. As a consequence of the dense growth of bamboo within the area, there were naturally-occurring clustered and tangled structures which lent themselves well to the needs of the project. As per IILab., “To coincide with what is already there, the new architecture looked at borrowing the materiality of the bamboo, reconfiguring it to form new space. In doing so, this new space means not to contest. Instead it aims to augment, albeit very gently, the surrounding bamboo groves and hills.”

4. Mumbai Artist Retreat by Architecture Brio
Location: Mumbai, India

  • Mumbai Artist Retreat designed by Architecture BRIO is raised to stilts to combat rising sea levels| Bamboo Architecture | Best of 2021 | STIRworld
    Mumbai Artist Retreat designed by Architecture BRIO is raised to stilts to combat rising sea levels Image: Edmund Sumner
  • Bamboo rafters support the roof | Bamboo Architecture | Best of 2021 | STIRworld
    Bamboo rafters support the roof Image: Edmund Sumner

This compact artists’ retreat sits across the Mumbai Bay in India, evoking the charm of its coastal location. Humble volumes made of steel and bamboo sit nestled within a low-lying palm plantation near a beach, raised on stilts to combat the low soil bearing capacity and the occasional flooding that the site receives. The heart of the retreat, i.e its workshop features a pyramid-like form where a zig-zag arrangement of bamboo rafters support the roof. As per Architecture Brio, "the material palette, with its restrained elegance and muted tones, makes for a serene surface against the striking greens of the site."

5. Flower Field Bamboo Pavilion by Atelier cnS
Location: Shunde District, Foshan City, Guangzhou, China

  • The Flower Pavilion’s form is characterised by its name, comprising inverted shells to mimic the shape | Bamboo Architecture | Best of 2021 | STIRworld
    The Flower Pavilion’s form is characterised by its name, comprising inverted shells to mimic the shape Image: Siming Wu
  • The pavilion features shells created along a central swirling spiral axis| Bamboo Architecture | Best of 2021 | STIRworld
    The pavilion features shells created along a central swirling spiral axis Image: Siming Wu
  • Bamboo’s tensile property of folding on itself to create a three dimensional enclosure inspired the architects to experiment with it | Bamboo Architecture | Best of 2021 | STIRworld
    Bamboo’s tensile property of folding on itself to create a three dimensional enclosure inspired the architects to experiment with it Image: Siming Wu

Guangzhou-based Atelier cnS has added three new structures to the Xianmo Flower Field Landscape Park with a vision to catalyse public interactions in an urban environment. Serving as a micro-renovation, lending new life to the urban park, the design seeks inspiration from the very material constituting the composition of the structures. The definition of the design of the three pavilions, in particular, is derivative of the excellent tensile and bending properties of bamboo itself, and the material’s property of singularly being capable of operating in all three dimensions.

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