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Famous Architects who were Inspired by Bamboo

Architects don't get much coverage in the media and very few seek it. But whether you prefer to call them artists or craftsmen, it's not a stretch to say that they have more impact on our daily lives than any other type of artistic endeavor because their work surrounds us every day. The buildings that we work in, are entertained in, conduct our daily affairs in, and live in have all been designed by architects but very few of them become famous. Those that do gain notoriety are bold souls that don't necessarily follow the old architectural maxim, 'form follows function'.

They design buildings that achieve the function intended but favor forms that are daring and unorthodox. Some even employ building materials that are not commonly used to achieve a particular look or make a statement. This article is about famous architects who were inspired by bamboo in their designs and applied the inherent properties of this plant in their work. Whatever their reasons may have been, they have left, or are still creating, delightfully unusual and beautiful buildings that will be a daily part of our lives for a long time.

Arata Isozaki

Mr. Isozaki was born in Japan in 1931 and graduated from the University of Tokyo in '54. After designing bank and library buildings in his hometown Oita, his work became noticed and he was selected to create larger civic structures like museums and sports arenas. Today, his work can be found all over the world. From Qatar to Krakow and Barcelona to Brooklyn, Isozaki's unusual sense of space and form separates him from his contemporaries, Probably the best example of bamboo in his design is the striking entrance to the National Museum of Art in Osaka, Japan.

Renzo Piano

Born into a family of builders in Genoa, Italy in 1937, Mr. Piano studied architecture and graduated from the Architecture School of Milan. Mr. Piano's first notable commission was for the Italian Industry Pavilion at Expo '70 in Osaka, Japan where he gained worldwide exposure and favorable reviews for his design. He then teamed up with an English architect named Richard Rogers and they entered and won an international design competition for the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris.

Since then, his designs have been built all over the world. From the De Menil Collection in Houston to the bold and innovative Kansai Air Terminal in Osaka, Japan, (which was built on an artificial island in the bay) Mr. Piano continues to be a source of inspiration and innovation for architects everywhere. Probably the best example of bamboo in his architecture is the Tjibaou Cultural Center on the island of New Caledonia in the south Pacific islands of Melanesia.

Buckminster Fuller

Born in 1895 in Massachusetts, Richard Buckminster Fuller was twice expelled from Harvard and eventually earned a doctorate from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. His interests ran from engineering to poetry and certainly his most famous achievement was conceiving, designing, and constructing the Geodesic Dome. He was a visionary and keenly aware of the finite resources of our planet and devoted his career to inventing sustainable shelter and transportation for the peoples of the world. He saw bamboo as a sustainable and quickly renewable resource for building materials. He died in 1983 while at his dying wife's bedside.

Frei Otto

Frei Otto was born in Germany in 1925 and attended architecture in Berlin before he was drafted by the Luftwaffe and served as a fighter pilot in the last years of World War II. After the war, he continued his studies and spent some time in the U.S. visiting such notable architects as Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe.

After teaching in the U.S. and founding the Institute for Lightweight Structures at the University of Stuttgart, Otto gained international attention for designing the West Germany Pavilion at Expo '67 in Montreal and the Olympic Park for the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich. Like Buckminster Fuller, Otto was driven by the possibilities of using light materials, such as bamboo, in construction projects and pioneered new designs and construction methods for pavilions and structures of all kinds.

Summary

These are but a few examples of famous architects that were, and are, inspired by the simplicity and extraordinary strength of bamboo as a building component. Today, rising concern about rapidly depleting resources is fueling a bamboo revolution of sorts as this simple species of grass is being used in all sorts of products from bamboo floors to bamboo houses to bamboo timber and many more innovative products. One can only hope that mankind takes a closer look at the designs and principles that these architects espoused and pursues a more sustainable path for the future. Bamboo may not be the answer to all our concerns but it certainly looks like a viable alternative to some of them.


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