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In Taiwan, A Stunning Bamboo Pavilion With A Potent Eco Message

Brooklyn studio nARCHITECTS builds a bamboo pavilion to raise awareness about a local forest under siege.

nARCHITECTS, a burgeoning Brooklyn studio and past winner of the MoMA/P.S.1 Young Architects Program (YAP), has sent us images of its latest work: an arched bamboo pavilion designed to raise awareness about a Taiwanese forest under siege.

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Forest Pavilion has 11 vaults–each more than twice as tall as a basketball hoop–that soar wildly over a central meeting space in the Da Nong Da Fu Forest and Eco-park, in Hualien province, Taiwan. The territory’s been a battlefield of competing interests. Historically, it belonged to the aboriginal Tawainese Amis tribe. Later, under Japanese rule, it was cultivated for sugarcane. Now the provincial government wants to develop a casino there. The Forest Pavilion was conceived for an arts festival organized to promote preserving the landscape as a forest. “In recognition of the cultural diversity of the region, the pavilion’s vaults, each one presenting a unique ‘gateway’ into the meeting space, sought to formalize this diversity and suggest an opportunity for unity in support of a greater environmental benefit,” the architects say.

There’s something a tad off about constructing one building to effectively protest the construction of another building. But no biggie. The pavilion’s got plenty of environmental cred. It’s made out of bamboo, which, unlike trees, grows fast and can be harvested without harming the plant. nARCHITECTS also tapped the Amis (who design their own structures out of bamboo) to fabricate the pavilion by hand, elaborating on a method that the architects used to build their winning YAP design, a bamboo canopy, in 2004. Principal Eric Bunge explains in an email:

While the Amis typically use dry or smoked bamboo without bending (they use them straight) and lashed together with organic material, we used freshly cut green bamboo, flexible enough to bend, and tied together with stainless steel wire. Our bamboo is inserted into steel pipes, welded to steel plates which are in turn bolted to concrete foundations.

Apparently, the Amis got deeply invested in the project and took to calling it “Y lu duqai a luma”: Amis for “mountain home.” (“One in particular deserves mention,” Bunge says. “Mayo, an Amis leader, put his heart and soul into it.”) What’s more, they contributed their own clever technical solutions. “Instead of prefabricating some of the secondary arches as we had specified, once the vault shapes were roughly defined, they inserted bamboo poles onto the steel foundation pipes and bent them towards each other, joining them to create the required arc,” Bunge says.

The Amis have since asked if they can adopt the studio’s bamboo construction technique for their own architectural creations. So even if the pavilion doesn’t help dissuade the government from erecting a casino — and, as these things go, it probably won’t — at least the Amis got some cool new design ideas out of it.

[Photographs by Iwan Baan]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.

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