Bamboo has historically been a staple in daily life activities on three continents for everything from building materials to food sources.  It has worked to overcome the stigma of a poor or working class material and emerged as both a contemporary and sustainable material.  It has the potential to become even more pervasive in the built environment as its properties and opportunities are further studied.  Current design trends could allow for a more direct connection between the producers of the material and a wide array of functions previously undeveloped in the less globally focused markets of the past.

Traditionally, bamboo is combined with a variety of other building materials in order to be used effectively.  However, new projects reveal its ability to be used alone in some applications.

Traditional Uses_

Common methods of assembly that feature the strengths and natural beauty of the material include structural formwork for weaving, columns, and stick-framing of truss-like elements.  Whole stalks are structural and split pieces can be overlapped and woven as secondary elements.

Fence: Bamboo is used as both the vertical structure and the woven component.

Bamboo Screen: The material is used in multiple widths to form the screen grid and the binding pieces that hold it together. This demonstrates the material's functionality and aesthetic value.

This Tea House demonstrates another simple assembly of bamboo woven together to form a shading screen.

Assembly Methods_

In the book Grow Your Own House, a range of techniques are presented on assembling individual pieces of bamboo into a larger structure or component.  Even though it is a type of wood, typical construction methods for wood cannot be used due to its potential to split or splinter.  The hollow tubes provide other opportunities for creating bolted, tied, threaded, or interlocking joints.  In this exploration, due to the scale of the strips of bamboo, I chose to work primarily with wrapped, tied, and woven connections.  At a larger scale, more detailed hardware connections could be tested, such as the metal fittings shown below.

Due to variations in the growth of individual stalks, strength must be tested constantly for safety.  Structural strength is also highly dependent upon the connection materials: twine, metal, rope, bamboo strips, and interlocking pieces.

Assembly methods presented in "Grow Your Own House"

Contemporary Forms_

In addition to studying historical functions, I have investigated new, modern uses for bamboo.  It ranges from new patterns for screens and shading to abstractions of space and interventions in more traditional spaces.  Contemporary assemblies often use variations of traditional fastening methods in conjunction with more curving forms.

A contemporary project by Renzo Piano uses simple assembly into a complex form.

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