Magical houses, made of bamboo | Elora Hardy | Summary and Q&A

May 12, 2015
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Magical houses, made of bamboo | Elora Hardy


At a young age, the speaker realized the potential of bamboo as a sustainable and versatile building material, leading her to found Ibuku, a company that designs and builds unique bamboo structures.

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Key Insights

  • 🏡 Using bamboo as a building material allows for unique and sustainable architectural designs, such as a six-story bespoke home in Bali that is almost entirely made from bamboo and includes features like curving roofs and woven pods.
  • 🌱 Bamboo is a sustainable material that grows on otherwise unproductive land and can be harvested in just three years, providing a viable alternative to timber.
  • 💪 Bamboo has impressive strength, with the tensile strength of steel and the compressive strength of concrete. It can withstand heavy loads and is lightweight enough to be lifted by just a few people.
  • 🌍 Bamboo has been used in tropical regions for thousands of years, however, it was historically difficult to protect from insects. With safe treatment solutions, bamboo can now be a long-lasting and durable building material.
  • 🔨 Designing with bamboo requires a different approach since it doesn't adhere to traditional architectural formulas. It requires craftsmanship, engineering, and an understanding of its strengths, curves, and unique properties.
  • 🚪 Bamboo can be shaped in unconventional ways, such as curved and teardrop-shaped doors, pushing the boundaries of design possibilities.
  • 🛠️ Building with bamboo involves meticulous construction, including measuring each pole and carefully joining and reinforcing the structure with both steel joints and handmade bamboo pins.
  • 🌿 Designing with bamboo promotes a sense of wonder, creativity, and a commitment to sustainability, as it is a material that can grow back and offers the potential for beauty, comfort, safety, and luxury in architectural design.


When I was nine years old, my mom asked me what I would want my house to look like, and I drew this fairy mushroom. And then she actually built it. (Laughter) I don't think I realized this was so unusual at the time, and maybe I still haven't, because I'm still designing houses. This is a six-story bespoke home on the island of Bali. It's built alm... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the inspiration behind the design of the houses built by the speaker?

The speaker was inspired by her own childhood experience of drawing a fairy mushroom house, which her mother then built. She continues to design houses because she believes it is not unusual and she finds it fulfilling. The designs are influenced by the tropical climate, with curving roofs to catch breezes and tall windows for air conditioning and insect protection.

Q: How does the speaker make use of bamboo in their designs?

The speaker uses bamboo as the primary building material for their houses. They highlight the advantages of bamboo, such as its rapid growth, strength, and sustainability. The speaker's father planted a specific bamboo species, Dendrocalamus asper niger, which grows quickly and provides long, strong poles for construction.

Q: What challenges did the speaker encounter when using bamboo as a building material?

One of the main challenges the speaker faced was changing people's perception of bamboo. Many believed that bamboo houses were poor and rural, so the speaker aimed to build extraordinary structures to inspire and change these preconceptions. Another challenge was protecting the bamboo from insects, which they achieved by treating it with borax, a natural salt.

Q: How does the speaker approach the design and construction of their bamboo houses?

The speaker's approach involves designing in real 3D and making scale structural models using bamboo, which helps them understand how to best utilize the material's strengths and curves. They ensure attention to detail, considering unconventional shapes for doors and using innovative techniques for ceilings and countertops. The construction process is largely handmade, with both steel joints and hand-whittled bamboo pins used for structural connections.


In this video, the speaker discusses her experience designing and building houses made entirely out of bamboo. She shares her childhood fascination with bamboo and how she turned that into a career. The speaker explains the sustainable qualities of bamboo and the various challenges and innovations involved in designing with this material. She also showcases some of the unique bamboo structures they have built, including homes, schools, and bridges.

Questions & Answers

Q: How did the speaker become interested in designing houses made of bamboo?

When the speaker was nine years old, her mother built a house based on her drawing of a fairy mushroom. This sparked her interest in designing houses, and she has been working with bamboo ever since.

Q: How does the speaker describe the bamboo house in Bali?

The bamboo house in Bali is a six-story bespoke home that overlooks a valley. It is built almost entirely from bamboo and features curving roofs to catch breezes, tall windows for air conditioning, and unique design elements like a giant woven pod and an air-conditioned tented bed.

Q: How does the speaker describe the properties of bamboo?

Bamboo is a wild grass that grows on unproductive land using rainwater, spring water, and sunlight. Out of the 1,450 species of bamboo, they use only seven of them. Bamboo is lightweight but has the tensile strength of steel and the compressive strength of concrete.

Q: Why did the speaker's father choose bamboo for building Green School in Bali?

The speaker's father chose bamboo for all the buildings at Green School because he saw it as a promise to the kids—a sustainable material that would not run out. Bamboo is abundant, strong, elegant, and earthquake-resistant, making it a perfect choice for the school.

Q: What is Ibuku and what does it do?

Ibuku is a team of artisans, architects, and designers founded by the speaker and some of the original builders of Green School. They are creating a new way of building using bamboo. Over the past five years, they have built over 50 unique structures, including homes and classrooms.

Q: How did they overcome the challenges of using bamboo as a building material?

They needed safe treatment solutions for bamboo to protect it from insects. By using borax, a natural salt, they were able to turn bamboo into a viable building material. They also aimed to build something extraordinary to inspire people and change their perception of bamboo as a poor or rural choice.

Q: What are some of the innovative design elements they incorporate into their bamboo structures?

Due to the curving and tapering nature of bamboo, they had to invent their own rules and design techniques. They ask the bamboo what it is good at and design accordingly, respecting its strengths. They create scale structural models from bamboo, design round doors, weave ceilings, carve kitchen countertops from boulders, and use handmade bamboo pins for structural connections.

Q: How do they approach the durability of their bamboo structures?

While the structural connections are reinforced with steel joints, the majority of their buildings are handmade using bamboo. They use whittled bamboo pins and thousands of them in each floor. They also employ techniques like using bamboo skin for glossy and durable floors, creating textures that affect the way people walk.

Q: How do they ensure the longevity of bamboo structures?

By treating bamboo with borax and designing carefully, the speaker mentions that a properly treated bamboo structure can last a lifetime. Treating bamboo protects it from weathering and ensures it does not get eaten by insects.

Q: What does the speaker believe can be achieved with bamboo as a building material?

The speaker believes that with creativity and commitment, bamboo can be used to create beauty, comfort, safety, and even luxury. Bamboo is a material that can grow back, making it a sustainable and renewable choice for construction.


The speaker emphasizes the potential of bamboo as a sustainable building material. Through proper treatment and innovative design approaches, bamboo structures can be durable, safe, and aesthetically pleasing. By showcasing the possibilities of bamboo through their unique designs, the speaker hopes to change people's perception of bamboo as a material only suitable for the poor or rural areas. With creativity and commitment, bamboo can be used to create stunning and environmentally-friendly structures.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The speaker's mother built a house based on the speaker's childhood drawing of a fairy mushroom, which sparked the speaker's passion for designing houses.

  • The speaker and their team at Ibuku build houses using bamboo as a sustainable, strong, and versatile material.

  • Using creativity and commitment, they have created over 50 unique structures, including houses, classrooms, and a restaurant, all made with bamboo.

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