We all know that we are well and truly in the middle of a climate crisis which could end life on earth. You may think of cows, planes, cars, or plastic when thinking about climate change, but what a lot of people forget is that architecture has a bigger impact on climate change than possibly all of these; it uses up space, materials, fuel, and many other things. Therefore, if architecture improves for the better, then a lot will follow. In Bali, the architect Elora Hardy is working with nature to help heal itself, and she is doing this, along with her team, by making buildings which are made from nature, not made against it.
The material which is helping them do this is bamboo. Bamboo is an incredibly versatile and strong wood, which grows very quickly. It used to be called ‘poor man’s timber’ because it is cheaper and more accessible. I think it should be called ‘every man’s timber’.
Bamboo has allowed Elora and her team to make their vision a reality – it acts as the walls, roof, and structure of the building. Not only that, but bamboo is used for all the interiors as well, the chairs lamps etc. Also, it is flexible which makes it seem like the whole building is moving, and alive. By using bamboo, it makes the walls textured and lovely to touch, creating a more tactile experience within the building. It was Elora’s genius to use bamboo in the first place, and the genius of bamboo experts and the bamboo itself to bring her vision to life. She has worked together with the bamboo and done what the material naturally wants to do. By working with nature, she has solved all the problems which come with working against it.
You may be reading this and be thinking, ‘well this is great, but it’s only going to work in the rainforest, isn’t it? ‘This is not necessarily true. Bamboo is everywhere and now that you know that you may start noticing it more. The Western World is only just beginning to realise the incredible properties and versatility of bamboo and is finally starting to use it.
Now, making buildings out of bamboo does seem like the way forward, but we have to be sensitive to what nature wants. Rather than building every building out of bamboo, we have to learn about the local environment and the natural materials there, so that we can use what nature is clearly telling us to do with it. Nature wants to help us, and it also wants us to help it. Therefore, we have to study what is around us to localise architecture, both in terms of materiality and community. The latter is something which I think is missing a lot in modern day society as a result of architecture being homogenised by the modern, and also the simple fact that transport and communication are so easy. I am not blaming modern architecture for all this because there is an incredible amount to learn from it and it would be foolish not to, but we have noticed that it could be improved, so we have to make the new modern natural, sooner rather than later.
This is not something that only architects can bring about – everyone has the power to make things around them more natural, whether it be their diet, the things they buy or the vehicles they use, but architects have a crucial role in changing the way people live for the better and have the ability to make the whole environment we live in more sympathetic and true and, as a result, happier and more inclusive.