Beautiful Bamboo

I just watched a TED Talk video that blew my mind.

I’m not just saying that. This video just obliterated everything I’d previously thought about with regard to buildings and building materials in my novel, and I recommend that everyone watch it. In Bali, Elora Hardy has put together a team of artisan builders that are making the most amazing houses out of bamboo.









Bamboo has been around for a long time, is super sustainable in that it’s basically grass and sends up fast-growing shoots like weeds, and has used to build things in the past because it’s incredibly sturdy. (Earthquake resistant!) It hasn’t been a seriously viable building material until recently due to insects eating it to dust, though, so until recently it’s been considered the last resort of the very poor. But there are ways to preserve it with a borax solution which, I’m not going to lie, I have not googled enough yet to understand at all.

The point is, it can be done and it requires a complete reimagining of how a building can be constructed. Look at those pictures again! Look at all the organic curves and loops. You can’t use bamboo in the same way as plywood, so the solid sheets are mostly bamboo strips hand-woven together to form walls and ceilings. In the TED video, Hardy mentions something about treated canvas incorporated into the rooftops as well.

One of the bathrooms shown in the video is basically a toilet surrounded by basket on the edge of one large room, and the only flaw is a lack of, ahem, soundproofing.

The doors are circular and teardrop shape, and pivot instead of swinging on hinges.


I cannot contain how much I love the openness and natural feeling of these designs. And it’s resulting in a slight climate adjustment for my novel.

To start with, I already have a world where the oceans have crept up. A generally warmer climate makes sense then. The majority of the story will be set in more or less Northern California, which has taken on a more tropical edge — unlike the still more temperate area up in the Great Lakes region, where my other main character is from. I still have to do a lot of research about tropical forests and foliage but there needs to be bamboo. A lot of it. I just need to figure out what kind of plants can and would grow alongside of it rather than being choked out.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I don’t have to do a complete overhaul of the plant life that I had in mind, but botany is not my strong suit so I’m not sure yet.

So that was an amazing and unexpected addition to my day.

Being receptive to new ideas is a huge piece of the creative process, even if it then requires going back and tinkering with things you thought were already set. What amazing things have you accidentally stumbled upon that gave you totally new ideas to incorporate into your story?

3 thoughts on “Beautiful Bamboo

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