What contemporary building material comes from one of the oldest plants on earth? Bamboo, that’s what, though its practicality, low price, and abundance in Asia make it more than just a trendy cloth for bathrobes. One architect in Vietnam is hard at work creating radiantly beautiful structures using the one simple material, for it’s lightweight, flexible, and strong enough for soaring domes and remarkable colonnades.
Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nghia returned to his homeland after a stint in Japan with grand ideas on sustainability in architecture. In his absence Vietnam went from moribund countryside to boomtown, causing stress on the natural landscape and depleting hardwood forests. In the IAA-winning architect’s fight for making conscionable use of indigenous resources like bamboo, which is fast maturing and easy to grow, he’s ended up resuscitating the society’s vernacular building tradition.
The Wind and Water Cafe in Binh Duong is a prime example of how Nghia uses the cheap, accessible material to maximum effect. The bamboo shaping the half-moon complex is sturdy yet flexible, using simple aerodynamic theory to use light and wind to its advantage.
In a 2009 interview with Vietnews, the architect explains:
All of my structures may look complex but they are, in fact, quite simple. Everything is modulated and it takes little time to install. A house of moderate size in a rural or suburban area will cost only about one third of the price of a normal house of the same size.