What is it about bamboo that inspires you so much?
You know, my wife and I were planning to retire when we moved to Bali, but then I was introduced to Al Gore. Al Gore ruined my retirement. We started to think about climate change, and about our responsibility to our grandchildren. So we decided to build Green School. It doesn’t look like a school… it’s like no other school on the planet.
Bamboo is the only material we can actually promise everbody. We can promise everybody an extra house with bamboo! All we have to do is plant it. It grows almost everywhere. Every shooting season I stand in the garden in Bali, and I wonder how could it be that in three years, this plant in my garden will become timber for me to build another building.
Ten per cent of Green School children are local kids on scholarships, and we have 350 local kids taking part in after-school programmes. They’re changing those villages. Every child knows how to plant harvest and cook rice. They know where their food comes from; they know how to make compost.
A big feature of Green School is its natural design – you don’t use engineered bamboo. What is your vision for how bamboo houses should look?
If engineered products were created by people who had a sense of beauty and awe, they would be better. Sure, housing has to be safe, but it can also be beautiful. It takes the same amount of material to make beauty as it does to make ugly – why are we choosing ugly? There’s no reason to build a bunker. Live on the land, enjoy on the land.
Bamboo is fun. Some people are fascinated by industrial bamboo products – we are fascinated by what we can do with bamboo without an industry, with the hands of Balinese artisans.
Tell us a little about how your school inspires people.
Our inspiration factor is amazing. There are hundreds of buildings going up around the world using bamboo because they saw what we did. As for the children – some kids come to Green School that are in deep trouble. They all of a sudden just explode into happiness and creativity and power. It’s incredible to see.
Bamboo deserves to be more than panda food; it deserves to be big, beautiful, incredible buildings too. I believe bamboo is the future – it’s time for bamboo.
Based on an interview with John Hardy on Wednesday 27 June and parts of his speech during the Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress.
- John Hardy’s TED talk, ‘My Green School Dream’, can be viewed online here.
- For a summary of the third day of the Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress, which focused on ‘Innovations and Industry Development’, read here.
- For INBAR’s interview with Mr Hardy’s son Orin and to learn more about building with natural bamboo culms, read here.