Earth Angels

by Teresa Chow on Feb 28, 2011 in Architecture
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classid="clsid:38481807-CA0E-42D2-BF39-B33AF135CC4D" id=ieooui> Using bamboo throughout its campus, the Green School in Bali demonstrates how sustainable materials can shelter us from the elements and, just maybe, help save the planet.

Tsunamis, droughts, flooding of near-Biblical proportions, record winters, soaring pollution levels… looking at the statistics, it is hard to dispute that the planet’s climate is undergoing drastic changes which may threaten mankind’s very existence. Ironically, the trigger for these changes is apparently none other than ourselves.

That said, Mother Nature can be forgiving, but only if we respect her. Only if we turn to her to help us build, rebuild and repair. At the pioneering Green School in Bali, this philosophy starts in the very bones of the academy, built almost entirely of bamboo.

Founded by jewellery designer John Hardy and spread over eight hectares in the village of Sibajang Kaja, Green School was designed using local, sustainable materials – primarily bamboo.

Senior architect Effan Adhiwira from PT Bamboo Pure – the company behind the design and development of Green School – said the project was about revisiting the relationship between nature and humankind. “The rationale behind the design was to ensure the buildings have a dialogue with nature. They need to adjust to, and alongside, nature. The challenge was to how to open such a dialogue, while also considering space and/or functional requirements,” says Adhiwira.

Green School’s curvilinear buildings were partly inspired by existing site conditions. “As much as we could, we didn’t disturb existing conditions. Thus, the building shapes follow what nature already has set out – that is to say, nothing in nature is rectangular,” the architect points out.

One of the Earth’s most environmental-friendly, sustainable and rapidly-renewing materials – from shoots to maturity takes just three years – bamboo is flexible, light and also incredibly strong if harvested, treated, designed, and maintained intelligently. It can literally last a lifetime. And sometimes, the methods are achingly, beautifully simple: “We treated the bamboo for Green School with a salt solution that replaced the naturally-occurring sugars, thus making it inedible to insects,” says Adhiwira.

The Balinese are renowned as gifted craftsmen, naturally skilled and familiar with bamboo. When these skills are incorporated with modern engineering knowledge, bamboo’s potential becomes infinite. “We wanted to set an example to the world; to show that bamboo can shelter us from sun and storms, while still allowing us to be connected with nature.”