Bamboo revival

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Kontum Indochine café, Vietnam by Vo Trong Nghia. Surrounded by a shallow artificial lake, the bamboo roof provides shade and maximises cool air flow in the tropical climate.

Kontum Indochine café, Vietnam by Vo Trong Nghia. Surrounded by a shallow artificial lake, the bamboo roof provides shade and maximises cool air flow in the tropical climate. Image: Hiroyuki Oki

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Kontum Indochine café. The 15 inverse cone-shaped columns are inspired by traditional Vietnamese fishing baskets and create the sensation of dining in a bamboo forest.

Kontum Indochine café. The 15 inverse cone-shaped columns are inspired by traditional Vietnamese fishing baskets and create the sensation of dining in a bamboo forest. Image: Hiroyuki Oki

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Bamboo Courtyard Teahouse, China by HWCD. This floating boutique teahouse features bamboo that is vertically and horizontally arranged for visual effect and depth.

Bamboo Courtyard Teahouse, China by HWCD. This floating boutique teahouse features bamboo that is vertically and horizontally arranged for visual effect and depth. Image: T+E

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The Bamboo Courtyard Teahouse takes inspiration from traditional Yangzhou courtyards that are inward-facing, with pavilions that are fragmented into small spaces.

The Bamboo Courtyard Teahouse takes inspiration from traditional Yangzhou courtyards that are inward-facing, with pavilions that are fragmented into small spaces. Image: T+E

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wNw Bar, Vietnam by Vo Trong Nghia. The main frame of the dome is constructed of 48 prefabricated bamboo units, which are each made of several bamboo elements bound together.

wNw Bar, Vietnam by Vo Trong Nghia. The main frame of the dome is constructed of 48 prefabricated bamboo units, which are each made of several bamboo elements bound together.

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Interior of wNw Bar. The striking structure was originally designed as a bar but is now also used for town meetings and other social activities such as ceremonies and shows.

Interior of wNw Bar. The striking structure was originally designed as a bar but is now also used for town meetings and other social activities such as ceremonies and shows.

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Courtyard House, Philippines by Atelier Sacha Cotture. Bamboo was an easy choice for this home given that it grows intensively locally, is low cost and a sustainable material.

Courtyard House, Philippines by Atelier Sacha Cotture. Bamboo was an easy choice for this home given that it grows intensively locally, is low cost and a sustainable material. Image: Luca Tettoni

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Courtyard House. The bamboo is protected by ledges, while the top floor features double layers. The poles have been sprayed against pests and then stained and varnished.

Courtyard House. The bamboo is protected by ledges, while the top floor features double layers. The poles have been sprayed against pests and then stained and varnished. Image: Luca Tettoni

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Kim Boi Restaurant, Vietnam by Tran Ba Tiep. The design is inspired by the traditional Vietnamese conical hat and ensures uninterrupted views of the surrounding area.

Kim Boi Restaurant, Vietnam by Tran Ba Tiep. The design is inspired by the traditional Vietnamese conical hat and ensures uninterrupted views of the surrounding area. Image: Hoang Le Photography

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Kim Boi Restaurant. A 12-sided polygon structure, the bamboo is connected together with lashings and bamboo bolts to form a frame on the floor before being erected by crane.

Kim Boi Restaurant. A 12-sided polygon structure, the bamboo is connected together with lashings and bamboo bolts to form a frame on the floor before being erected by crane. Image: Hoang Le Photography

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Ecological Children Activity and Education Center, Thailand by 24H > architecture. The structure and roof are made of many different sizes of local Thai bamboo reeds.

Ecological Children Activity and Education Center, Thailand by 24H > architecture. The structure and roof are made of many different sizes of local Thai bamboo reeds. Image: Kiattipong Panchee

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Children Activity & Learning Centre. The cosy music room features sheet music that wraps around the outer structure and over the bamboo reed frame.

Children Activity & Learning Centre. The cosy music room features sheet music that wraps around the outer structure and over the bamboo reed frame. Image: Kiattipong Panchee

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Bamboo Hostels, China by Anna Heringer. This three-building hostel reflects the ancient local traditions of building with sustainable materials like bamboo and rammed earth.

Bamboo Hostels, China by Anna Heringer. This three-building hostel reflects the ancient local traditions of building with sustainable materials like bamboo and rammed earth. Image: Jenny Li

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Bamboo Hostels, China. The round buildings feature a open bamboo structure, woven like a basket around a solid core of rammed earth and stone.

Bamboo Hostels, China. The round buildings feature a open bamboo structure, woven like a basket around a solid core of rammed earth and stone. Image: Jenny Li

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Bamboo Playhouse, Kuala Lumpur by Eleena Jamil Architect. A public pavilion inspired by local structures called 'wakaf': freestanding shelters, open to anyone to rest in.

Bamboo Playhouse, Kuala Lumpur by Eleena Jamil Architect. A public pavilion inspired by local structures called ‘wakaf’: freestanding shelters, open to anyone to rest in. Image: Marc Tey Photography

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Bamboo Playhouse. In Malaysia the use of bamboo in modern buildings is very rare, so the playhouse project explores its potential as a sustainable building material.

Bamboo Playhouse. In Malaysia the use of bamboo in modern buildings is very rare, so the playhouse project explores its potential as a sustainable building material. Image: Marc Tey Photography

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Passive House, France by Karawitz Architecture. Non-treated bamboo makes up the second skin that envelops the skeleton made of large wood panels.

Passive House, France by Karawitz Architecture. Non-treated bamboo makes up the second skin that envelops the skeleton made of large wood panels. Image: Abbadie & Karawitz

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Passive House, France. The outer shell is entirely covered with cut-to-measure bamboo poles threaded onto steel wires, which creates a filigree effect.

Passive House, France. The outer shell is entirely covered with cut-to-measure bamboo poles threaded onto steel wires, which creates a filigree effect. Image: Abbadie & Karawitz

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Bamboo Villa: Live in the Nature, China by C&C Design. One of 8 bamboo villas, the interior and exterior design of the structure is inspired by the local Hakka house design.

Bamboo Villa: Live in the Nature, China by C&C Design. One of 8 bamboo villas, the interior and exterior design of the structure is inspired by the local Hakka house design.

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Bamboo Villa, China. Bamboo has been used here not only as an architectural element, but also as interior decoration, and was sourced from the neighbouring Nankun Mountain.

Bamboo Villa, China. Bamboo has been used here not only as an architectural element, but also as interior decoration, and was sourced from the neighbouring Nankun Mountain.

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Blooming Bamboo Home by HP Architects, Vietnam. A multi-functional modular space that is strong enough to withstand floods and the like.

Blooming Bamboo Home by HP Architects, Vietnam. A multi-functional modular space that is strong enough to withstand floods and the like. Image: Doan Thanh Ha

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Blooming Bamboo Home. A proposed affordable housing solution, the house is constructed with modular units and can be produced in only 25 days, costing approximately $2,500.

Blooming Bamboo Home. A proposed affordable housing solution, the house is constructed with modular units and can be produced in only 25 days, costing approximately $2,500. Image: Doan Thanh Ha

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Mason Lane Farm, Kentucky by De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop. The farm complex utilises simple, passive sustainable approaches.

Mason Lane Farm, Kentucky by De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop. The farm complex utilises simple, passive sustainable approaches. Image: Roberto de Leon

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Mason Lane Farm: this large covered shed, used to store both hay and equipment, is clad in a lattice grid of locally-harvested bamboo, sourced only 56 kms from the project site.

Mason Lane Farm: this large covered shed, used to store both hay and equipment, is clad in a lattice grid of locally-harvested bamboo, sourced only 56 kms from the project site. Image: Roberto de Leon

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Parking Garage of Leipzig Zoo, Germany by HPP Architects. The parking garage expresses a unity with the adjacent zoo grounds, hence the use of bamboo as the façade material.

Parking Garage of Leipzig Zoo, Germany by HPP Architects. The parking garage expresses a unity with the adjacent zoo grounds, hence the use of bamboo as the façade material.

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Parking Garage of Leipzig Zoo. The use of bamboo creates a soft, tactile structure in what is normally a harsh, concrete environment of a parking complex.

Parking Garage of Leipzig Zoo. The use of bamboo creates a soft, tactile structure in what is normally a harsh, concrete environment of a parking complex.

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T4 Madrid Barajas Airport, Spain by RSH+P. The bamboo wave-shaped roof is connected by a chain of skylights, uniting the different functions of the airport.

T4 Madrid Barajas Airport, Spain by RSH+P. The bamboo wave-shaped roof is connected by a chain of skylights, uniting the different functions of the airport.

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T4 Madrid Barajas Airport. The 5-layered strips  of bamboo were specially designed for this project and underwent a particular fireproof as well as anti-humidity treatment.

T4 Madrid Barajas Airport. The 5-layered strips of bamboo were specially designed for this project and underwent a particular fireproof as well as anti-humidity treatment.

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Sharma Springs, Bali by Ibuku. Built as a 'jungle escape', the project is a 6-level, 4-bedroom 750sqm home overlooking the Ayung river valley, built almost entirely of bamboo.

Sharma Springs, Bali by Ibuku. Built as a ‘jungle escape’, the project is a 6-level, 4-bedroom 750sqm home overlooking the Ayung river valley, built almost entirely of bamboo. Image: Rio Helmi

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Sharma Springs. The open-air living, dining and kitchen spaces are situated on the 4th level, with each item of furniture custom designed.

Sharma Springs. The open-air living, dining and kitchen spaces are situated on the 4th level, with each item of furniture custom designed. Image: Rio Helmi

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With greater tensile strength than steel and the ability to withstand compression better than concrete, the use of bamboo in construction is back on the drawing board for many architects and designers, especially in those areas of the world where the material grows abundantly and is readily available at a low cost, such as in Asia, the South Pacific and Central and South America.

A natural composite material, bamboos are some of the fastest-growing plants in the world and have long been considered the most primitive grasses. Alongside its underground rhizome root system that continually regenerates the plant when the stalks are cut, bamboo also produces 35 per cent more oxygen from carbon dioxide than trees and more effectively binds soil to prevent erosion.

Bamboos are a group of woody perennial evergreen plants in the true grass family Poaceae.

Bamboo is often dried, treated and used as is in construction, cutting out the processing that many other materials must go through before use, which means a drastic reduction in carbon emission. Taking into account the fact that it is easy to harvest, can be composted after use and could considerably reduce or replace the use of concrete and steel in construction, it’s clear that bamboo is a highly sustainable and ecologically friendly building material.

Traditionally, bamboo has been used to make a wide range of items, from flooring, handicrafts, tableware and furniture through to its use in simple suspension bridges and large-scale scaffolding due to its strength, flexibility and relatively slow-burning properties.

Building with bamboo is not without its challenges, however. While the moderate bendability of the material ensures a unique shape and beauty to any project, creating an insulated wall or roof system using structural bamboo is difficult, hence the material being used most frequently in warm, tropical climates.

In many countries, a lack of codes and standards around using the material has also kept architects and designers away from bamboo, and as building with it requires a special skill, it can be hard to find contractors with enough, or, indeed, any experience in bamboo construction.

Special fastening techniques are required when joining pieces of bamboo.

As the grass can be susceptible to structural weakness caused by fungus, insects and simple biodegradation, bamboo intended for use in construction must be treated; the most common solution for this purpose is a mixture of borax and boric acid. Bamboo does not lend itself to being painted because of its natural waxy coating, and excessive dying or bleaching of bamboo may reduce its structural integrity.

In New Zealand, bamboo is not widely used for structural purposes, however it is utilised for hedges, fences and ornamental plantings for landscaping, and also for interior features such as flooring, privacy screens, furniture and ornaments. Bamboo is also used in New Zealand to cleanse and protect waterways and control soil erosion with its dense mat of fibrous roots.

Despite its challenges, this “poor man’s timber” has been making something of a comeback in construction in the last five years or so, featuring in designs that range from basic modular homes to large open-air restaurants and bars. It is great for use in open and semi-outdoor spaces thanks to its ability to let air flow easily through the structure.

More architects and designers today are realising the many advantages and viability of using bamboo in a range of projects. Given its sustainable and environmental credentials, the unconventional, beautiful shapes it can create and its strong, versatile nature, it’s no wonder that well-known Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nghia has called bamboo “the green steel of the 21st century”.

Check out the images below and the slideshow above for ArchitectureNow’s countdown of 15 bamboo projects from across the globe.

Kontum Indochine café. The 15 inverse cone-shaped columns are inspired by traditional Vietnamese fishing baskets and create the sensation of dining in a bamboo forest. Image:  Hiroyuki Oki
Bamboo Courtyard Teahouse, China by HWCD. This floating boutique teahouse features bamboo that is vertically and horizontally arranged for visual effect and depth. Image:  T+E
wNw Bar, Vietnam by Vo Trong Nghia. The main frame of the dome is constructed of 48 prefabricated bamboo units, which are each made of several bamboo elements bound together.
Courtyard House, Philippines by Atelier Sacha Cotture. Bamboo was an easy choice for this home given that it grows intensively locally, is low cost and a sustainable material. Image:  Luca Tettoni
Kim Boi Restaurant, Vietnam by Tran Ba Tiep. The design is inspired by the traditional Vietnamese conical hat and ensures uninterrupted views of the surrounding area. Image:  Hoang Le Photography
Ecological Children Activity and Education Center, Thailand by 24H > architecture. The structure and roof are made of many different sizes of local Thai bamboo reeds. Image:  Kiattipong Panchee
Bamboo Hostels, China by Anna Heringer. This three-building hostel reflects the ancient local traditions of building with sustainable materials like bamboo and rammed earth. Image:  Jenny Li
Bamboo Playhouse, Kuala Lumpur by Eleena Jamil Architect. A public pavilion inspired by local structures called ‘wakaf’: freestanding shelters, open to anyone to rest in. Image:  Marc Tey Photography
Passive House, France by Karawitz Architecture. Non-treated bamboo makes up the second skin that envelops the skeleton made of large wood panels. Image:  Abbadie & Karawitz
Bamboo Villa, China. Bamboo has been used here not only as an architectural element, but also as interior decoration, and was sourced from the neighbouring Nankun Mountain.
Blooming Bamboo Home. A proposed affordable housing solution, the house is constructed with modular units and can be produced in only 25 days, costing approximately $2,500. Image:  Doan Thanh Ha
Mason Lane Farm, Kentucky by De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop. The farm complex utilises simple, passive sustainable approaches. Image:  Roberto de Leon
Parking Garage of Leipzig Zoo, Germany by HPP Architects. The parking garage expresses a unity with the adjacent zoo grounds, hence the use of bamboo as the façade material.
T4 Madrid Barajas Airport, Spain by RSH+P. The bamboo wave-shaped roof is connected by a chain of skylights, uniting the different functions of the airport.
Sharma Springs, Bali by Ibuku. Built as a ‘jungle escape’, the project is a 6-level, 4-bedroom 750sqm home overlooking the Ayung river valley, built almost entirely of bamboo. Image:  Rio Helmi

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