Architectural ‘green’ studio Penda have proposed their unique vision for future cities. The new typology seriously blends the lines between man-made and natural. Constructed predominantly of modular bamboo elements, the system could revolutionise the way we could inhabit the world, in a way which sees nature take central stage. Yes, Penda are proposing a contemporary utopia (or as we have branded it, a ‘bambootopia’), but a very different one to what we are usually accustomed to in the pages of history on the sets of futuristic films.
Like every utopia to merit its name, Penda’s comes equipped with a loaded message at heart;
“We believe that in present times a sustainable way of construction is more valuable than ever. The current state of irresponsible city planning, air-pollution and economic crisis ask the architecture profession to rethink the process of building.”
It is this quest for new possibilities that Penda are exploring in their conceptual new-future. Their answer comes in the form of flexibility (in modularity) and reliance on nature’s answer to steel: bamboo.
Bamboo is a great renewable resource with fantastic properties, making it an ideal building material. This is one of the reasons why Penda have chosen to focus on this plant as a key ingredient to their future city vision. What’s the hype about bamboo all about? Here are our ‘Bamboo Fun Facts for Architects’:
_Bamboo matures very quickly (within 4-6 years), can reach heights of over 40meters and has an impressive growing rate of up to 1.4meters a day.
_Bamboo produces up to 35% more oxygen than any other comparable plant types while absorbing an equal amount of carbon dioxide. This makes it a great air purifier.
_Bamboo does not need to be replanted after harvesting, as this plant’s root system stays alive and can regrow itself naturally.
_Bamboo has an impressive weight to strength ratio, making it 2-3 time stronger than a steal beam of similar weight.
Life is about constant change and therefore, requires us humans to be flexible. However, our cities – more specifically our buildings – are not designed to be flexible, or better, not as freely adaptable as we are. They are predominantly static. Alterations – when feasible – require energy, costs, wastes and time.
Penda acknowledges this, as their solution consisted of a simple modular system which can be added to, subtracted, changed and can grow organically to suit the needs of the people who inhabit it. The system comes in the form of a series of inverted pyramid structures made from (you guessed it) bamboo tied together with rope. Independently they form one room, but together they can be assembled to create entire cities of multi story green skyscrapers.
The base module provides the structure for endless possibilities to happen (a bit like a lego brick). What you do within the system is up to you. So, here we see how modularity and flexibility go – according to Penda – hand in hand.
“A smart, modular system gives the structure the freedom to grow in every direction… by adding and connecting new bamboo canes, the structure grows and becomes a stronger system.”
Bamboo structures and modular systems are in themselves interesting architectural ideas, there is no doubt about it. But what makes Penda’s bambootopia truly innovative and inspirational, is in their interpretation for an ecological future. We notice how plants become part of the building materials as living cladding systems which are intended to populate the facades of their modular bamboo counterparts. Through Penda’s vision, mankind is seen not just living in touch with nature, but actually living in it.
Ecology as an urban system is central to this architecture practice’s ideology, as seen here in their conceptual city. They even go as far as to outline a hierarchy of building phases: a type of win-win situation where humans and nature exist as equals to one another in a truly symbiotic (and not parasitic) relationship.
“To ensure a steady building material supply, a neighbouring bamboo grove gets planted. For each culm of bamboo taken as a construction material, 2 new ones need to get planted to the forest instead. This approach secures the demands of building elements in the long run and creates a beautiful bamboo forest surrounding the development.”
We like how unlike the majority of utopias out there, Penda’s is considerably realistic despite its profound depth of concept. What this studio is proposing is a pragmatic-utopia, one which stands as a true counter-movement to today’s urban context but does so by showing us a different type of future, which is as beautiful as it is achievable today.