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Criticalista: Experimental Architecture Without Architects


Experimental Architecture Without Architects

A Green School classroom

The Green School auditorium

Bamboo joinery details

Bamboo is an ancient building material that fell largely out of favor in the twentieth century, only to be used as scaffolding in the construction of Asian skyscrapers or else to create atmosphere in polynesian-themed bars and restaurants that serve cocktails decorated with miniature umbrellas. But that may be changing now as our addiction to concrete is proving to be unsustainable. Good old bamboo is making a comeback as a “green” building material: it is natural, very fast-growing, light-weight, strong, flexible, affordable, and requires relatively little maintenance. Its only disadvantages are that it deteriorates when exposed to direct sunshine and certain kinds of insects like to feed on it.  The other thing about bamboo is that, in structural applications, it has to be used whole. It can’t be sawn into lumber the way wood can. Bamboo structures are then, by their very nature, rather rustic and imprecise--the opposite of contemporary Swiss architecture. 

What is most remarkable about the Green School in Bali is the architectural experimentation that is being undertaken. Altogether, these structures comprise a veritable catalogue of countless ways that bamboo can be used as a building material. Especially impressive are the sizable column-free spans that have been achieved by means of long arches of bundled bamboo, and the beauty of latticed column structures. 

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