“BAMBOO PROTECTS THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE AIR WE BREATHE…
Bamboo is the fastest growing canopy for the regreening of degraded lands, and its stands release 35% more oxygen than equivalent stands of trees. Some bamboo even sequester up to 12 tons of carbon dioxide from the air per hectare. Bamboo can also lower light intensity and protects against ultraviolet rays. Traditional belief holds that being in a bamboo grove – the favorite dwelling place of Buddha – restores calmness to emotions and stimulates creativity.”
- Environmental Bamboo Foundation
Upon entering into a bamboo grove footsteps are muted while a grass like scent lingers in the air, the space seems to curve with the sway of culms, light is filtered through the overlapping of elongated leaves in a matrix of triangular shapes creating an interplay of softly humidified shadow and a subtle green glowing aura of energy commences in a concert of buffered silence accompanied by a whispering snare drum sound scape symphony of sheaths and leaves, one which has been playing for thousands of years and you’re happy to be in attendance for as long as your ticket allows.
Bamboo evokes a vision of a serene poetic space while simultaneously being tenaciously involved in a determined mission, rapidly shooting upwards at rates of up to 3 Ft daily, defying boundaries and surviving atomic blasts, leaving a carpet of sheaths and creating a vast network of rhizomes with long, sinuous traveling roots. It seems to have developed its own organic language, eager to volunteer its’ ability to morph into myriad of applications.
The Jardim Botanico in Rio de Janeiro is situated north of Leblon and the beaches of Ipanema, up the shaded sidewalk that ascends from where the foamy ruffled sleeve of the Atlantic ocean meets with the rocks that form a jagged outline of the Avenida Niemeyer. Walkways are lined with giant, sublime palm trees patiently in attendance for at least two centuries, winding past ponds and through assemblies of Euphorbias, Agave and Aloes past a “Bromilitorium” the Bromeliário where hundreds of species of bromeliads seem to converse in a colorful animated display of birdlike blossoms existing like living headdresses left by indigenous tribes, waiting and hopeful that they too may be worn in the Carnaval parade someday at the Sambadromo.
The garden was a favorite place of the architect Oscar Niemeyer who speaks of it in his book "The Curves of Time" (2000, Phaidon) He admired the vast collection of plants in their complexity, noting that “Nature is so beautiful, how it multiplies everywhere and maintains structural logic in all its secrets." He writes of long visits that included intense observation and sketching, describing visits to the parks of Rio as giving him a feeling of rapture, one that he longed to revisit many years later -
“We used to get there early,at about 11:00 am, as the golden light filtered through the branches of the enormous trees and left shadowed patterns on the ground. We ecstatically sensed the perfection of Nature, when Man treats it with respect. It would be so wonderful if we could preserve the spontaneity that is so often sacrificed when those supposedly responsible for protecting nature do not understand it”
Several species of bamboo form large clumps as you traverse the walkways of the Jardim, fanning out and forming graceful arcs that seem to reach out like dancers in a bambusa ballet. The culms of bambusa gigante appear as a procession of elephantine feet firmly planted in the ground towering upwards to heights of 80 feet. The outer layers of the mature culms are gradated in darker shades of green tinged with bluish veridian and brown. The weighty sheaths cling to the culm, progressively curling before separating and floating to the ground. Moss, lichens and dappled mold thrive in the tropical climate. The pink and orange formations are rare, appearing at first like small scaled abstract paintings of Lee Krasner or Helen Frankenthaler, exploding across the surface like an other worldly blossom streamed in from a Pat Steir painting then forming concentric rings that seem to map out floor plans in various ranges of perspective in flat, elliptical, and oblique curves and discs.
It’s almost as if bambusa gigantic has spied the disc shaped MAC (Museu de Arte Contemporânea) in Nitoroi across Guanabara Bay with telescopic culms and absorbed the floor plans along with the contoured red ramps and is engaged in collaboration, producing plans for a new adapted species — bambusa major multiplex.
The resulting bio structure architecture would be a living, super carbon sequestering and oxygen producing hybrid with a humanitarian and cultural agenda encompassing an area of up to 150 feet in diameter with interior spaces that are insulated with a soft absorbent pulp and sinuous bamboo fibers that could be carved into desired degrees of transparency for fenestration, ventilation and filtering sunlight or molded into curved walls and furnishings. The inner nodes form cushioned flooring, jutting outwards from the culm in tapered extensions that cup and form cisterns for rainwater collection and a filtration system. Areas of the giant root system would be adapted to form an array of various conduits for irrigation, plumbing and a network of tunnels used for transportation. Clumps of the mammoth bambusa would offer a combination of habitat, working space and cultural functions in a mixed use capacity connected by a series of bridges and walkways incorporating the giant sheaths serving as gardens for culinary plants and grasses, winding upwards around the culm, curling in areas to provide covered areas for shade.
In “Urban Green” Neil Chambers (2011) speaks of a sustainable future for urban architecture that integrates utility with nature and involves a vast collaboration of biologists, ecologists, architects, artists and designers among others, along with society at large working with ecosystems to “provide unique patterns of human growth and ecological wonder”what he calls eco-mimicry-”where civilization functions as if it were a habitat” Artists and architects have envisioned many types of bio structures and biomorphic systems – the towering singing sonic sculptures that propagate by helix shaped rhizomes of JG Ballard in Vermillion Sands, the endless architecture of Frederick Kiesler, the bio rock mineral accretion formations of Wolf Hilbertz, tree formed habitats by TerreForm One, Symbiosishood by R & Sie(n) , the Isometric Mapping of Agnes Denes and the floating cloud like cities of Tomas Saraceno. Rachel Armstrong describes the cybernetic installation a collaboration by Philip Beesley and Rob Gorbet ”Hylozoic Ground” in her “Living Architecture” (2012) and its use of customized morphing protocell technology. Bio synthetics – genomics and protocell chemistry can implement architecture with micro organic properties that sensitize a building and enhance its ability to interface with nature and function as a habitat. Armstrong also describes a scenario where a building has been enhanced to provide a bio engineered plant based system of bioscaffolding, “survival bubbles” and “biopolymer shoots” that produce sustenance to victims of distress through umbilical tubes and a cocoon like fibrous membrane with sensors to aid in rescue through a chameleon like, metabolic paint that changes colors on the buildings exterior.
Futuristic visions of an optimal architecture are organic and kind, accessible through the exploration of a poetic, living space very much like the space in a bamboo grove.