by Zohra KhanDec 31, 2021
The Green School in Bali, a name synonymous with hands-on education in sustainable design practices, especially in the realm of bamboo architecture the world over, is an exemplar, a monument unto itself. The elegant bamboo structures adorning its grounds proudly parade the design philosophy the school professes and practices. Building on its 12-year legacy of nurturing holistic, innovative, and purpose-driven green architecture using bamboo, probably the “greenest” construction material there is by convention, the school’s wall-less community has a new addition: one that is a structural and aesthetic triumph, and a stride in sustainable architecture the school champions. Designed as a community wellness space and a gymnasium, the Arc stands tall as a showcase of the practice’s and school’s prowess over lightweight structures, and the complex spanning and joining mechanisms associated with them. With the aptly named Arc, IBUKU and the Green School aspire to raise the bar for sustainable education around the world.
The shaded pavilion-like structure features a porous and flexible spatial layout spread over 760 square meters. 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 ‘arcs’ of the structure, the pointed bamboo arches subsuming the form of pleated drapery almost, measure 14 meters in height. The 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. The grid-shells derive their strength from the arches curving in two different directions, using the stiffness of the resulting shape to provide buckling resistance to the parabolic enclosure. Under stress, the seamlessly integrated system helps in the redistribution of weight, localising them to the arches.
Apart from IBUKU, the project required close collaboration with multiple stakeholders, including Atelier One for structural design, and Jörg Stamm for conceptual design, sharing the same vision for bringing the structure’s tailor-made details to life with sensitivity. Following months of research, development, and fine-tuning, the structure was erected in nearly eight months, another testament to the speedy and efficient construction that bamboo enables as a near completely renewable material.
Applying the seemingly most direct interpretation of biophilia in architecture, from planning ideology to material manifestation, the concept for The Arc is inspired from an essential function in the human body: the ribcage cloistering our lungs in. Akin to the membranous encasement of skin and muscle that remains under tension for the compressed ribcage to hold the lungs, the arches in the structure too work similarly under compression, held in place by the tensioned anticlastic grid-shells. “These fields of grid-shells appear to drape across the spaces between impossibly thin arches soaring overhead, giving a whimsy, an intimacy and a beauty to the space. Although the grid shells appear to hang from the arches, they actually hold them up”, states an official release on the intricacy of the structure and its working. Spatial interstices formed at the seams with the overlapping of the membranous roof allow filtered sunlight in, further enhancing the quality of porosity and a certain degree of transparency in space.
Jules de Laage, construction manager for The Arc and an on-site architect for the project stated that there was “something quite wonderful about ancestral craftsmanship meeting modern construction techniques”, the fusion of the two being something that both the Green School and IBUKU have championed over the years. On the symbolic meaning of the structure in as rapidly transforming an urban landscape as Indonesia, Elora Hardy, creative director at IBUKU opines that “The Arc at Green School Bali enters a new era for organic architecture”.