The Building of Bamboo U Hangout Pods with Arquitectura Mixta

At Bamboo U we are always looking for new ways to build with bamboo. The Pool Hangout was a design that we developed in collaboration with Arquitectura Mixta from Mexico. They joined us to make this design as part of our 11-Day Build & Design Immersion Course in June 2019.

Arquitectura Mixta is a bio-architecture study-workshop based in Mexico. They are committed to the development of sustainable habitats through architectural design with natural materials like bamboo and earth. Through this  collaboration, Bamboo U was able to share a simple, yet beautiful, method of building bamboo gridshells. Besides being extremely strong this method of construction is also easy to do with people who have little or no construction experience.

Bamboo U is building a natural swimming pool as part of its campus. But we needed this pool to be more than just a place to swim. We wanted the space to be one that inspires play and creativity, one that allows adults to feel like children again. This structure was created to help achieve this.

The concept is heavily influenced by Arquitectura Mixta’s lead architect, Jaime Peña, passion for sacred geometry and fractal design. By creating natural forms that mimic nature’s universal patterns it is possible to create a space that makes people feel at home and connected. The intention is to make people feel a sense of balance, harmony, and connection to the greater universe we all inhabit. The pods are made up of two shapes: a sphere and an ellipse. The two are joined by a vortex-like tunnel that merges the two forms together. The small entrance forces people to climb on hands and knees to enter the pods, creating a child-like experience.

Look at this beautiful 'sacred' pattern

Sacred Geometry is not just about beautiful forms it's also about the process and intention put into these forms. Before Bamboo U started building onsite Jaime had Bamboo U participants start with a prayer. The entire group took a moment to connect with a bamboo culm on the Bamboo U Campus asking for strength, energy and permission to build something amazing. This process may seem frivolous to some but it is an important part of building in harmony with nature. All too often modern people forget to stop and appreciate the materials that make our designs possible.

The first step was to build the foundations and the raised floors to support the grid-shell. We used bamboo tali putih (Gigantochloa apus) for one pod and bamboo tali hitam (Gigantochloa atroviolacea) for the other. If you want to learn more about the bamboo we use please check out this post: The bamboo species we use the most. Then the group began making two bamboo-split ring beams over the floors by layering long splits of bamboo petung (Dendrocalamus asper) together. One in the shape of a perfect circle, the other in the shape of an ellipse. This became the template on which to build the grid-shell.

Jaime leading us on making the bamboo splits ring
The circle ring finished

The next step is the best part. Working with bamboo splits can be very playful and organic. Splits are easy to handle, and can be bent into various forms to create the required shapes. The final form for these pods was actually determined onsite by the participants--with the help of Jaime--through trial and error. Participants worked as a group to create the best proportions by using reference splits to help guide the shape. Once they were happy with the proportions they began adding more and more split members over the reference splits. Rather than following a specific set of measurements in this process the group simply kept adding more and more members to create an organic woven pattern. It helps to use green bamboo splits that have been recently treated to make sure they are as flexible as possible. Dry splits tend to be too rigid and often crack. Once sufficient members were added the grid shell was strong enough to climb on! Everyone is amazing by how durable and rigid these pods are!

We, getting 'just treated' bamboo splits from the bamboo factory
The first splits were our guide for creating the shapes
Once we started adding more interwoven splits, we were able to see the shapes

Meanwhile another group was developing a template to make the frames for the opening of the pods. Again we used bamboo split bundles for this. When complete the frames were secured onto the pods and participants cut out the negative space to make the openings for people to enter the structure. In just five days the group was able to complete the construction of the ellipsoid and the sphere. They also managed to complete the openings to the structure! Later our carpenters at Bamboo U completed the bridge which connects the two volumes.

The frame of the 'lips'
The patterns generate a magical interior space
The tunnel that connects the two volumes

For most bamboo projects Bamboo U works on a detailed scaled model of the structure before construction starts. But for this project, to let participants experience the beauty and versatility of split-member woven gridshell structures, construction began without an existing model on-site. Every participant who took part in this station was able to contribute to the form of the space while weaving it together. Everyone involved was amazed by the beauty of the final design.

Once the structure and the bridge was done Bamboo U completed the roof. It is composed of bamboo rods or ‘lidi’ bundles that flow around the structure, creating various moments that cover and reveal the form below. A tailored waterproofed fabric membrane rests gently atop the pods, allowing sun to filter through. This creates beautiful shadows of the woven splits inside. The ‘lips’ or opening frames are covered with hammered brass. This adds an interesting contrast and accent to the bamboo, while protecting it from the rain and sun.

the finished structure
The finished structure with the roof

It took a lot of hard work and dedication from everyone involved to complete this structure. From the participants of Bamboo U to the architects and carpenters that worked to complete the details so we could achieve an excellent final result. We hope that with every split that is woven into this building people will be inspired to see the strength, and the creativity that bamboo can offer us. If you would like to learn more about Bamboo structures and techniques, Bamboo U 11-Day Design and Build Immersion Course!

About the author
Bella van der Griend | Architect

Architect and bamboo enthusiast from the U.S. She came to Bali as a student visitor to research the potential of bamboo building and design and contributed to the building of The Kubu, one of the bamboo projects designed and built at Bamboo U.

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