22 July 2019 – Finalists of the International Bamboo Construction fought scorching temperatures, pouring rain and a battle against the clock to build their bamboo designs at the INBAR Pavilion over just three days before presenting their final efforts to a jury of experts.
More than 70 teams from 12 countries entered the International Bamboo Construction Competition back in April and were tasked with designing a standalone structure in a 3 m x 3 m area of ground using natural or engineered bamboo. In June, the jury of 23 experts, including representatives from INBAR, industry and academia, whittled the list down to a longlist of 15 finalists (find out more here) and a shortlist of three.
The chance to build their structure in 3D at the Beijing Expo site was given to the top three teams, hailing from Nanjing University, the University of Liege and Addis Ababa. The three day final culminated in an award ceremony and celebration on 19 July.
The team won for their modular bamboo house design, which is shaped like a lotus and can be put together in a little more than one day. The flowing, floral style was inspired by team member Audrey Mertens’ trip to Bali, where she met the Green School Bali team and witnessed firsthand the incredible structures found in the rainforests there. She credits multicultural influences from Bali, France, the UK and China with the final design, and says that the team’s imagination was only limited by «the space that we had to build in – at first we wanted to create something much more wild and crazy! But after settling on the Lotus shape and realizing how important the Lotus is in Chinese culture, everything started to make sense.»
The structure is made almost entirely from bamboo poles. It includes a second storey for sleeping, a ground floor made from engineered bamboo panels (suggested activities for this area include a game of Chinese chess, or perhaps a relaxing cup of jasmine tea…) and its doors, or ‘petals’, can open and close depending on the weather.
According to Chen Qi, House Loti team member, “We wanted to design something that utilises the unique properties of bamboo, and proves that natural materials can be just as powerful as more processed ones if used correctly.”
In-BOX House is made almost entirely from modular bamboo boxes inside a frame made from moso bamboo culms. It includes a second storey, and is designed to be constructed very quickly. The boxes can be used in many different configurations, as storage or as areas for relaxing, working or sleeping.
Mikyas Tekle from in-BOX House told INBAR, “What an incredible opportunity to come to China and make our design into reality.” His teammate Lelissa Erkissa added, “We based our design on the needs of people in our countries living in informal housing in urban areas. We wanted to make the design as scaleable and as customisable as possible to reflect how people in Ethiopia think about housing.»
The team, made up of Lelissa Erkissa, Mikyas Tekle, and Simon Mucheye, have already entered similar competitions in Ethiopia to build with bamboo, and will continue to push boundaries and change perceptions in their home country. Mikyas Tekle:
“Bamboo is everywhere in Ethiopia and grows abundantly. In the future, all of us want to make a career in bamboo and bring new ideas and innovation to the industry in Ethiopia.”
The third finalist, Machine of Bamboo, was the only team to experiment with the potential of engineered bamboo, and the only team to be travelling from their home country, China, to build their final design. Huimin Wu, Xiaonan Li and Sicheng Zhou created a futuristic, angular design with a viewing platform to be enjoyed by tourists in a scenic spot. “Taking part in this competition really awakened me to the potential of bamboo, especially the special properties of engineered bamboo,” said team member Huimin Wu. “Our design was quite complicated, so it took a lot of work to put up. But it’s worth it to see our designs come to life for the first time.”
Crouching · Hidden, a student team from Beijing Jiaotong University comprising Cai Yueqian, Qian Xiaowen, and Liu Dingyi, were awarded a Special Mention, having received the most votes by visitors to the INBAR Pavilion and Garden. They might not have reached the live building stage, but their spiral design sent them home with USD 2000.
For Kai Cui, the chairman of the jury and chief architect of the China Architectural Design Research Institute, the aim of the contest was to explore the potential of bamboo.
“When I was looking around the designs, I was really looking for something that used the qualities of bamboo. Bamboo is flexible, bamboo is light, bamboo is versatile. I think the winning team really reflected those qualities well.”
According to Liu Kewei, head of INBAR’s Construction Task Force and Chair of the Organising Committee of the Competition, IBCC 2019 was established “to encourage new perspectives on bamboo design, from the future generation of architects.”
The creativity, scope of ideas and attention to detail displayed last week certainly reflects a hopeful future for bamboo in construction.
The top three finalists’ structures have been built in the INBAR Garden at the International Horticultural Exposition in Beijing, China, where they are on display to all visitors until 10 October.
You can see the designs of all 15 finalists and full results of the competition here.