top
The miracle grass
von Nora Sobich | 11/18/2008

The old clichés are almost outdated. There are only a handful of people now who, when they see or hear the word bamboo, immediately think of "Hawaiian toast" or the rustic, exotic bamboo tube setting of pseudo-authentic Thai restaurants. With its high sustainability value, strength and flexibility, the "miracle grass", which grows primarily in China and is among the world's fastest renewable raw materials, has evolved into one of the most innovative green materials. It is already being treated as the "building material of the 21st century". For designers it seems it will soon be considered proper to have at least one bamboo product in their repertoire.

The Dutch designer Tejo Remy recently presented an excellent design using the "trend" grass, which is as versatile as it is durable. Remy, who early on integrated environmental consciousness into modern product design with a light, unpretentious touch and initially was also part of the "Droog design" movement, became well known in the early 1990s with his now legendary recycled unit "Remy's Chest of Drawers". Together with René Veenhuizen, Tejo Remy today runs a design studio specializing in green design. Their new bamboo chair looks as though the two designers were inspired by old-fashioned fruit baskets. The structure, made of softly curving thin bamboo planks resembling bentwood, is a real stroke of genius and, with its basket-like shape, embodies not only ergonomic comfort, but also the skill of the craftsman.

The striking chair Konstantin Grcic has designed from bamboo continues the theme of craftwork traditions. The piece of furniture, which he recently presented at "Maison & Objet" in Paris, consists of a total of 43 laminated bamboo strips, which give the chair its name, "43". The structure faintly calls to mind old wooden sledges. The chair was created in the context of the so-called "Yii" project, a collaboration between the "NTCRI" (National Taiwan Crafts Research Institute) and the "TDC" (Taiwan Design Center), which aims to integrate traditional processing techniques into contemporary design. Moreover, the green claim of Grcic's generous chair is not only limited to the use of a sustainable material, but also manifests itself in the fact that it is handmade locally in an environmentally-conscious way.

Tom Dixon, creative director at the traditional Finnish furniture manufacturer "Artek", also continues time old design traditions with his bamboo furniture. At "Artek", co-founded by the Modernistist Alvar Aalto in 1935, there has been a comprehensive design philosophy from day one. Now, with Dixon's "Sustainable Bambu Collection", Alvar Aalto's claim to design will be transported into the 21st century, so to speak. However, it will not be completely green or completely in line with Alvar Aalto's principles. The bamboo collection will not be made in Finland, for example, but in faraway Japan and nor will it be made out of indigenous grasses, but those that grow in China.

In most new bamboo objects, which, inspired by the technical processing properties of the cultivated Asian plant are created by the dozen, the surface has been processed so finely that its original tube structure is hardly visible anymore. The raw material which has been processed into solid planks seems almost inconspicuous, for example, in the functionally plain bamboo chair by the Dutch design company "de onderneming in architectuur". Now, however, there are also other examples which once again lend the "trend material of the future" rustic exoticism. The raw appearance of the bamboo design by "Stijn van Woerkom", for example, takes some getting used to. In the gigantic dining table, the natural aesthetics of the material are blatant and displayed with an almost shocking visual strength. As such, the formal language of the "bamboetafel" appears angular or in the classic modern style: a contrast which some will find borderline tasteful, yet original enough that they should almost find it convincing.

Artek
Artek
Association for better furniture
Pli
Pli
43 by Konstantin Grcic for Yii, Photos via Yatzer, www.yatzer.com
43 by Konstantin Grcic for Yii, Photos via Yatzer, www.yatzer.com
Bamboestoel by Tejo Remy and Rene Veenhuizen
Artek
Artek
Association for better furniture