Rio Helmi/Images courtesy of Ibuku Sharma Springs

With recent breakthroughs in insecticide treatment, the material now appears to be a viable alternative to timber.

"There was a time when you could not be poor enough, or rural enough, to want to live in a bamboo house," says Ibuku founder Elora Hardy.

A former print designer for Donna Karan, Hardy now leads an Indonesian firm that creates innovative, luxurious structures out of cheap, sustainable, plentiful bamboo. In a talk at the TED conference last week, Hardy wowed the audience with spectacular images that defy traditional notions of house shapes and construction.

Handmade roof (Errol Balihigh)

With efficacious insect-resistant treatment, Hardy argues that bamboo is the ideal building material. She explained that it has the compressive force of concrete and the tensile strength of steel. It is also earthquake resistant and light enough to be easily transportable. "It's hollow, so it can be carried by a small team of men, or apparently one woman," she said smiling, as she flashed an image of woman carrying poles in a construction site.

A photo posted by Elora Hardy (@ibukubali) on

Bamboo is also a sustainable and renewable alternative to timber, which makes it a viable way to give denuded forests a break. And it is spectacularly fast-growing. Hardy claims that she has witnessed bamboo, which is actually a kind of wild grass, grow 1 meter (3.2 feet) in one week. Some species grow up to 2 inches an hour, or up to 1.5 meters each day.

Bamboo architecture has actually been in use since the 16th century in tropical areas of the world, and is an emerging architectural and interior design specialty in Asia. But until recent breakthroughs in insecticide treatment, bamboo buildings were considered temporary structures, because bugs and termites would eventually destroy them. "Untreated bamboo gets eaten to dust," explained Hardy. Ibuku's bamboo is treated with boron, in a low-toxicity solution that renders the bamboo indigestible to insects.

#artcubbies #kids #play #creativity #bamboo

A photo posted by Elora Hardy (@ibukubali) on

Hardy's father John, a Canadian expat, was among the pioneers who pushed the practice to new heights in Indonesia. With his wife, he founded the all-bamboo campus of Green School in the jungles of Bali in 2006, and created a lab for experimentation with bamboo building and engineering.

Together with a team of dozens, Hardy is continuing her father's work. Born and raised in Bali, Hardy moved to the U.S. for college, but returned to Bali in 2010 to start Ibuku. "I've never wanted to focus on one medium or art form. The technical details are figured out in the team but I'm interested in the visual realm and how spaces feel and look," says Hardy, who is the creative director at Ibuku.

Miniature 3D model serves as the blueprint. (Courtesy of Ibuku)

Ibuku's 50-plus bespoke buildings in Indonesia, used as private residences, hotel villas, and classrooms in Green School, are mostly handmade, showcasing the talent and ingenuity of locally-trained Indonesian architects, engineers, designers, artisans, and craftsmen. "The architects in my team are the extraordinary outliers," Hardy told us. "They sought us out to be involved in something creative and unique. Some of them have been working with bamboo since their childhood creating temporary structures for Balinese cultural ceremonies. Others are fresh out of architecture school and we just have to bend their minds out of a mindset wrought by an architectural education."

"The tried and true formulae of architecture do not apply here," said Hardy. "It's a challenge. How do you make a ceiling without flat boards? Let me tell you, there are days when I dream of sheet rock and plywood."

(Image courtesy of Ibuku)

Instead of blueprints, her team makes a miniature 3D model of a building. Then they take their model to the site, and select a unique pole from the pile for each component.

No straight lines (Image courtesy of Ibuku)

But not everything has been solved.

The toilet acoustics remain a conundrum. "At night, I end up Googling 'Japanese ladies noise modesty machines,'" Hardy said. "There are still some things we're working on, but one thing I learned is that bamboo will treat you well if you use it right."

Enter ⬆️ #sharmasprings #bamboo #architecture #bali

A photo posted by Arisa Onozawa (@arisaonozawa) on

Perch, Sharma Springs (Rio Helmi)
Kitchen, Sunrise House (Rio Helmi)
Living room, River House (Rio Helmi)
Bedroom, Sunrise House (Rio Helmi)

This post originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site.

More from Quartz:

Amazonian Hunters Are Helping Unravel the Mysteries of the Male Brain

Richard III—Warrior King, Hunchback, Possible Child-Killer—Is Finally Getting the Royal Send-Off After 530 Years

The Femina Miss India Pageant Has Little to Do With Indian Women—or Indian Beauty

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Still from 'Game of Thrones' showing three characters trudging through a burning city.
    Design

    King’s Landing Was Always a Miserable Dump

    Game of Thrones’ destruction of the capital of the Seven Kingdoms revealed a city of mean living conditions and rampant inequality.

  2. A photo of shoppers in the central textile market of downtown Jakarta.
    Design

    How Cities Design Themselves

    Urban planner Alain Bertaud’s new book, Order Without Design, argues that cities are really shaped by market forces, not visionaries.

  3. A woman stands in a small, 1940s-era kitchen with white cabinets and a dining table.
    Design

    The Frankfurt Kitchen Changed How We Cook—and Live

    There are “dream kitchens,” and then there’s the Frankfurt Kitchen, designed by architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky in 1926.

  4. Design

    How I. M. Pei Shaped the Modern City

    The architect, who died yesterday at the age of 102, designed iconic modern buildings on prominent sites around the world. Here are some that delight and confound CityLab.

  5. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.