After four years at the helm of the Secretariat of INBAR, I finally visited the Green School in Ubud village in central Bali. This is a well-known bamboo development, with a whole range of different buildings made from mainly Dendrocalamus asper bamboo. The main halls of the school are several floors high, and illustrate how you can make beautiful construction with natural bamboo poles, but there are many other smaller class rooms and buildings on the grounds of the school. The recent blog by Monique and Marcus De Caro is a very apt description of the Green School with stunning photos.
The school has some 450 students from a varied range of backgrounds and nationalities. There is also a scholarship programme for promising students from Bali, and the contributions we made for a visit to the Green School are used to pay for the local scholarships. My wife and I visited during the day, and were asked not to photograph students. What a considerate request – keep their privacy and avoid them feeling exploited. My photo is therefore rather empty of people, but for a reason.
The Green School is the brainchild of John Hardy, who came to Bali many years ago and fell in love with the place. He is a successful jewelry designer, and he created the blueprints for the original buildings. One of the first constructions was the bridge over the local river, which connects the school with the local village on the other side. The original bridge was damaged during a flood a few years ago, but the replacement is a majestic structure spanning the river.
The more recent additions to the Green School are created by IBUKU, the design and architecture firm lead by his daughter Elora Hardy. Apart from working on the green School, Ibuku has created the nearby Green Village, a collection of stunning individually owned bespoke bamboo houses. The “piece de la resistance” in the Green Village is a five floor high building on the slopes of the river, which I could visit, but some of the other buildings are privately owned and cannot be photographed. Elora has given an inspiring TED talk about her work, which is worth watching. https://www.ted.com/talks/elora_hardy_magical_houses_made_of_bamboo
The latest venture of Elora and John is a boutique hotel in Ubud, called Bambu Indah. Thisis where I stayed during my visit to Bali. This little haven of peace is a collection of historical teak wedding houses from Java, with a few specially constructed bamboo buildings to bring it all together. I have photos, but another blog by Monique and Marcus De Caro captures the beauty of the place much better: http://beautiful-places.de/en/bambuindahubud-bali-thespecialeco-boutique-hideaway-by-john-hardy/
The main dining hall in Bambu Indah is a typical IBUKU construction and the open kitchen is a delight to see. John explained that keeping the kitchen open for the guests to see what is being cooked gives a feeling of togetherness. The food in Bambu Indah is healthy and very tasty. Vegetables are grown on the property, and in the nearby organic garden, and little is needed to enhance the taste artificially.
The other bamboo building in Bambu Indah is a replica of a Sumatra long house, constructed in black bamboo. Apparently, it is a copy of a historic building, but made from bamboo instead of teak timber. What a stunning construction.
During our discussions, Elora explained that bamboo has to be treated to avoid insects eating the sugar, and she does this in an environmentally-friendly way. We visited the bamboo factory where daily deliveries of long bamboo poles are soaked in a bath with a borax solution, made from a natural salt. The system is a closed loop, and the solution is re-cycled and re-used for many years. Once the poles are properly immersed (breaking a small hole in all the membranes that define the nodes of the bamboo, so that the liquid can freely flow through the whole length of the pole), they are left to dry before they are used for construction or other manufacturing purposes. It was exciting to see so many large poles waiting to be used, and this illustrates how vibrant the bamboo construction industry is in Bali.
The other protection against insect infestation is to use large boulders as the foundation stones of the main uprights. This is an effective way to avoid white ants getting into the base of the culms, and I really like the look.
While my wife and I were staying at Bambu Indah, John asked us to join him for a “trash-walk”. He explained that every day, he goes out into the village, and collects litter. He carries a large sac, and has a spear to pin down plastic bottles, bags and anything else he may come across. John explained that local people are used to sweep the dirt from their courtyard into the road and the local stream. That was fine in the past, when most of the litter was organic matter. Nowadays, most of the rubbish contains plastic bags, plastic cups and other plastic items, and this is a sore sight, and it clogs the local streams. Picking the rubbish up before it reaches the mouth of the river and the shore line is the best way of preventing more pollution of the coast. I asked whether these litter collection walks have an impact, and John pointed out posters in the village that tell people in local language to avoid littering and to collect rubbish. These posters are a direct result of John’s efforts, and joining John Hardy and other guests of the hotel on an early morning walk was a real pleasure.
We stayed in Bambu Indah for five days, and what an inspiring visit this was!