Women in Bamboo
By Leticia Matos Asilis | December 2, 2022 | Design - Construction -
In this article, we recognize the work of women leaders in the bamboo industry. Their effort has influenced and inspired thousands of people and they show the importance of courage, impact, and action.
In one of our recent articles we talked about people that have led the way in turning bamboo into a viable and highly sought-after construction material. This time around we want to recognize the work of women leaders in the bamboo industry. Their effort has influenced and inspired thousands of people and they show the importance of courage, impact, and action.
In this article we will talk about 7 women whose work has and continues to encourage a better sustainable future using bamboo as a medium:
- Linda Garland
- Elora Hardy
- Yasmeen Lari
- Anna Heringer
- Elizabeth Widjaja
- Rebecca Reubens
- Divine Nabaweesi
The late Linda Garland founded the Environmental Bamboo Foundation, an institution that has been instrumental in the development of the modern use of bamboo in Indonesia and beyond. She fell in love with Bali, and a few years later in the mid-1970s, Linda discovered the island’s giant bamboo and the multitude of bamboo utilization in the traditional way of life in Indonesia. Linda helped bring bamboo into high fashion in the late 70s and early 80s, and in the process helped several villages create cottage industries. She developed the “vertical soak and diffusion system” of preserving bamboo as the most appropriate technology solution for rural farmers in Indonesia and was awarded an honorary Ph.D. in 2015 for her achievement. She was known as “The queen of bamboo”.
Elora Hardy is the founder and creative director of IBUKU, an international design studio based in Bali with designs that reconnect people with nature. She has developed a unique way of working with bamboo and is one of the most influential designers in the bamboo movement. IBUKU was founded in 2010 to continue the work that the team John Hardy and Cynthia Hardy had assembled to create the Green School Bali campus. They had in turn been inspired to choose bamboo by their close friend Linda Garland. Elora shared IBUKU’s achievements in a TED talk in 2015 and has been featured in AppleTV’s docuseries Home, Arch Digest, Elle Decor, Vogue, Tatler, London Design Week, CNN, and the BBC. IBUKU’s works have won multiple awards including the Architecture Master Prize award in 2021 as well as Supreme Award winners for Structural Engineering Excellence in 2022. In 2013, Elora was named an Architectural Digest Innovator on the AD100 list and was awarded the Royal Designer for Industry (Hon) in 2019 by the RSA.
"Rooted in bamboo design innovation with an ever-expanding material palette, IBUKU is merging architecture with the artisanal and sculptural, and the vernacular with the innovative. In our 200+ projects on Bali and around the world we ignite a sense of delight, provoke the experience of wonder, and forge reconnection to the luxury of nature. Over the past 12 years, we have lead a new design vocabulary through our work with some of the world's best engineers, designers, and artisans. From the highly innovative structures at Green School and Green Village to projects for wellness and luxury spaces including The Four Seasons, Como Hotels, and the recent Mari Beach Club, we design the most magical and most buildable projects for each context, merging the natural and modern towards a beautiful future." said Elora Hardy.
Yasmeen Lari became the first woman to qualify as an architect in Pakistan in 1963. Previously, she worked as a commercial architect but since her retirement in 2000, she has been advocating for more sustainable practices. With communities, she has spearheaded the building of more than 45,000 homes from mud, lime, and bamboo. She is very focused on substituting emission-intensive materials such as concrete and steel, with local materials that have been used for thousands of years in vernacular architecture. After a destructive earthquake ravaged the region of Kashmir in 2005, she began her work in disaster risk reduction. Lari developed a prototype for a shelter that could be replicable by anyone using traditional mud construction. She trained thousands of locals through her foundation Heritage Foundation of Pakistan.
Anna Heringer is an architect and honorary professor of the UNESCO Chair of Earthen Architecture, Building Cultures, and Sustainable Development. She has been focusing on the use of natural materials and has been involved in projects in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Heringer has received numerous awards such as the Obel Award 2020, the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, the AR Emerging Architecture Awards in 2006 and 2008, the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard's GSD, and a RIBA International Fellowship. She truly believes in the potential of bamboo as a natural building material to create safe, beautiful, and humane architecture. For her, architecture is a tool to improve lives and she uses it as a medium to strengthen cultural and individual confidence, supports local economies, and foster ecological balance.
Elizabeth Widjaja is a scientist and researcher at the LIPI Biological Research Center in Indonesia. She is known as the only bamboo taxonomist in Indonesia and has dedicated more than half of her life to researching the anatomy of bamboo. In 1980 she received a scholarship to continue her master’s degree at the Department of Biology at the University of Birmingham, England. She continued her research studies and then was offered a Ph.D. Back in Indonesia, she encountered many challenges, among them was the lack of research funds and effort. But in 1990 Elizabeth received research funding from the International Development Research Center, Canada that helped her research bamboo germ-plasm. She identified and grouped 160 species of which 80 were her findings. Today, she is researching 20 more species and is a living example of hard work and dedication.
Rebecca Reubens is an expert in bamboo-based design, livelihood generation, and design education. After working in the international development sector for 7 years, In 2009 she founded Rhizome, India’s first multidisciplinary sustainability design studio. Rhizome works towards achieving a fine balance between development, sustainability, and commercial viability. To deepen her knowledge of sustainable design, Rebecca decided to supplement her NID education in design with a Ph.D. in sustainability from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. In 2012 she wrote the book “Bamboo, from green design to sustainable design” where she focuses on the links between design, craft, and sustainability, expanding the scope of design and opportunities for designers.
Divine Nabaweesi is the CEO and founder of the Divine Bamboo Group in Uganda, an innovative forestry enterprise. Their main focus is to empower people and protect nature with bamboo in Africa. The group was born out of a desire to eradicate deforestation in Africa and the fact that Uganda is losing over 200,000 acres of forest every year mainly due to the cutting down of trees for charcoal and firewood. Through the production of clean cooking fuel in the form of bamboo briquettes, their mission is to stop deforestation. Their bamboo briquettes are more affordable than traditional charcoal, they cook for longer and don’t produce smoke. In parallel, they are providing seedlings to small communities to help them plant bamboo and generate their own briquettes for income.
Divine Bamboo Uganda
This article highlights the female role in an industry full of challenges and changes. We are inspired to see the focus and determination of each of these leaders and their shared goal for creating a more sustainable future in a way that inspires and speaks to our shared need for nature connection.
Do you know of other key figures in the bamboo movement (of any gender) who we haven’t mentioned here? We’d love to hear about others who are shaping the future of bamboo architecture, building, and design. Email us at [email protected] to share other bamboo role models you’d like to see featured here.
Leticia is an architect based in the Dominican Republic. She has always been passionate about the fusion of architecture and nature to create the perfect balance between organic spaces and modern requirements.
June 10-21, 2023
The 11 Day Bamboo Build & Design Course in Bali
In 11 days, we'll show you how to build bamboo structures we’ll share all that it takes to build with nature.
The Fundamentals of Building with Bamboo Online Course
Join the Waitlist
All the fundamentals you need to get you started working with bamboo. Deep dive into cinematic videos and step-by-step guides that will provide you with a strong understanding of bamboo as a design and building material.