Writer: Stella Loo
The Tensile Configurations Studio had decided to design and build a pavilion for the SUTD Library. However, since the pavilion we had begun designing was rather unprecedented and unique, we decided to spend the recess week learning more about bamboo, one of the key elements to our design. As a result, we journeyed to Bali to study bamboo architecture, visit bamboo plantations and experience open-air architecture.
Although the beauty of Bali is renowned as a major tourism destination, it has undoubtedly contributed to many environmental challenges. Having said, the island has birthed some outstanding green ‘revolutionists’. Mastering the art of bamboo craftmanship, it could be said that the Balinese craftsmen had long before recognised the importance of sustainable architecture, and the Studio was excited to experience this first hand.
Several highlights of the trip included: The Green School, an impromptu studio session with famous Balinese Architect Ketut Arthana, having a homecooked Balinese meal while discussing traditional Balinese architecture with Gede Kresnar at Rumah Intaran, and exploring the naturally growing Penglipuran bamboo forest.
The Green School
The first stop of the trip was the Green School. Every part of the school is built up from bamboo or recycled materials, and designed by students and teachers. Active on sustainable design, recycling points are set up on the campus, encouraging students to learn through reuse and recycle.
Tejaprana Resort and Spa
The amazing thing about meeting Architect Ketut Arthana was how welcoming he was in leading us on a tour himself around one of his latest completed masterpieces: Tejaprana Resort and Spa – and treating us to an unexpected but well-received class on his design principles and conceptualisation of the entire resort. With a crowd of us 11 aspiring architects huddled in a tight ring around Pak Ketut, he indulged us to sketches and wisdom from his years of experience in the industry.
Located away from the touristy areas, Rumah Intaran in North Bali is Architect Gede Kresna’s answer to realising the transitory nature of modern life. There, he resides with his family and opens his doors to visitors interested to learn more about Balinese tradition and architecture. There, we were treated to half a day of creating natural products under local craftsmen, like bamboo weaved bottle holders and extracting our own jello-mix from plants. We even got to eat a delicious, homecooked traditional meal prepared by Pengalaman Rasa, that was followed by a class held by Pak Gede himself. He patiently took our questions on working with bamboo, and offered many tips on bamboo fabrication.
Penglipuran Bamboo Forest
Upon entering the naturally occurring bamboo jungle from the Penglipuran village, it was almost as though we had stumbled onto the set for the first installation of Lord of the Rings. Towering beams of bamboo grew and then leaned down to hug the road leading through the forest, forming a tunnel of sorts with small slivers of sunlight streaming in. After speaking to various professionals in Bali, actually seeing the thriving bamboo forest was first-hand experience on different grades of bamboo and their uses.
Many of the places we visited were naturally ventilated marvels that successfully incorporated open-airiness into their design. This was a quality that we aimed for our pavilion to have.