By Kenza van Lerberghe for IROCO Design.
Over the past years, bamboo has become increasingly popular as a natural material in architecture, interior, industrial as well as product design.
There are two main reasons for this, both linked to the environment: the first one is aesthetics - bamboo boasts the same appearance whether within a building or outside in nature. The second is thanks to its material properties – a very fast-growing plant, sustainable to harvest and extremely strong and light.
Because of its strength, sustainability, and variety of colours and finishes - green bamboo, dried bamboo, or lacquered - the options for design are plentiful. Bamboo can divide a room, act as structural support, become furniture, or be used as a decorative lace-like lattice around a window.
Furthermore, bamboo is relatively slow burning compared to timber. This is why it is chosen over metal scaffolding for most buildings in China be it for minor works or full construction. In Hong Kong, towers from five to 100 storeys are constructed within bamboo scaffolding. Once the scaffolding is finished it can be deconstructed or simply cut into pieces and used as compost to cultivate the growth of more bamboo.
The number of architects and designers who feel a sense of nostalgia towards traditional materials, such as bamboo, is on the increase. It remains an important material given its symbolic link to the past with distinct variations of use and practice within Asian cultures. Modern designers often choose bamboo given its sense of history and purpose, and indeed as a reaction against so many contemporary materials. Furthermore, aesthetically bamboo will soften the visual impact within modern interiors.
The regional designer houses such as Penga, Kengo Kuma&Associates, HWCD Associates, and Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nghia are a good example of this.
Other designers, for example Foster+Partners, introduce bamboo to humanitarian projects thanks to its sustainable nature, low cost, strength and flexibility. Bamboo, viewed as the green ‘steel’ of the 21st century, is used to address some of the biggest challenges countries are facing in Asia and beyond - housing for a rapidly growing population.