architecture : urban : visual culture

Bamboo as an attitude

What can we learn from bamboo construction? András Bojti's thoughts over bamboo, life and universe.

Has remained some humility in today’s architecture, or unscrupulous, formalist self-realisation is the future? If this latter was gaining ground, further questions would occur. The most important question would be perhaps whether the Creator or fortune has provided a real form culture, eventually sculptural affinity for constructors who got onto the field of sculpture by chance but had received training at a rather great distance from this art. May be that a cooperation of the profession based barely on honouring each other would produce higher-level products in the spirit of professional sovereignty, equality in rank and tolerance of the architect and the sculptor? 



Fortunately both among Hungarian and international architects there are many who preserved their original state. As Jo Noero of South Africa and Andrija Rusan of Croatia showed also through their life-works at the Architects’ Conference held in Budapest in 2009 that original state places function the first, the second, and even the third. Architectural immorality of those continuously setting up sculptures of themselves from the money of others and the public respectively is not for them.

This already globalised problem may not even occur in the countries of far-eastern poverty. This is something they do not have to worry about in their everyday life.
In 2008 I went to Indonesia, the islands of Bali and Flores to shoot a film; the latter island is of a special atmosphere, and is fortunately less known. I went there not as a tourist: I was taken up by poor families and whole mountain villages together with my camera, and so I was lucky to have a deeper look into their everyday life. The subject was exactly happiness. Here it exists yet.
I have got the idea to take it with me to the much civilised western world, which developed exactly up to the crisis, in order to show how „primitive” those remote people going other ways and having other cultures are. Well, they have a lot to catch up with if they hurry. I mean to say that „these there” are still able to bow to the gifts of nature. They are able to know and exactly assess what to use for what, and then to live on together with them in mental and physical symbiosis.

There is for example this terrible, by no means artificial material, bamboo as an everlasting, earthquake-proof structural element or the mass of water- and rainproof rice fibres cut down during rice harvest as roofing material. It can be well seen in the attached pictures and in one of my earlier films how these equal-sized bamboo panels, literally turned flush are made, according to „designing principles of systemic view”. How dare they build homes just simply, without any formalist wish to show off?

The panels are strengthened on a minimum wooden frame with a few nails. Then they can already say that the house stands. After that they enter the something which did not exist up to now, and they lay down the now 40 cm wide and 3 m long elastic floor which was cut in minutes – d x π – from a beautiful bamboo pipe, once 13 cm in diameter. Then they take the roof panels of 80 cm x 3 m size, thickly made from rice cutgrass, with several overlaps, pressed together by two bamboo poles, and strengthen them to the roof tree. At last they move in. However they do not set up the building in the axis of main streets in order to show off, and in order that only their self-fulfilment could be seen but it is placed in a way that it becomes an organic part of the neighbourhood. These buildings are astonishingly beautiful because they do not want to be beautiful. The frontages are that rich in drawings also of graphical worth and are made in millions of variations that one will never get bored with them. There are no copying of the neighbours and reworking of solutions taken from international magazines, widespread in the western world. There is only cleanness, both mental and spiritual.



May be that poverty leaves also the head more clear than richness, and the latter one kills the sense of beauty, makes one stupid? In a strange way in many cases western construction skill does not find that primitive assembling technique which the people here know even with their eyes shut, when they assemble a carpenter’s work from bamboo. It struggles with it, jerry-builds, establishes inorganic material connections and junctions.
It does not find enough and spectacular enough the strict forms deriving from function which are used by the residents of the place, and although it learned much on the way of functional designing of Bauhaus but creating is great, as fantasy takes wings, and in the hope of world fame also material success is before the eyes.

These words have not been written as an offer for material usage. It may perhaps be understood that it is about a global phenomenon, an attitude, and a symbol. This global phenomenon rages and destroys however also here in our towns with its self-realising unscrupulousness and bad taste. Still, we do not already understand symbols, we have outgrown them. I realised that when I have recently tried to show a high-ranking body of architects, through presenting my architectural film shot 20 years ago with acrid humour, recalling Adolf Loos (30ies) and Máté Major (50ies) in archive shots including their dictatorial, aggressive and peremptory roars, that today’s architectural purposes look like dictatorial. They did not understand. Fortunately Indonesian people experiencing the wholeness of life day by day understand and live both symbols and the noble simplicity in the messages of nature. We rather develop but in which direction?

In order to avoid misunderstanding all these thoughts have been written not against the real contemporary architectural and sculptural attitude but just in its interest, in support of it.
The brain, hand and soul of the sculptor are led by the same positive and value-granting purpose if he wants to grant a new value to the public. Therefore a valuable creating relationship may exist between the artistic forms.
Bamboo is an attitude.
András Bojti
Glass sculptor, filmmaker and bamboo

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