I have selected two ‘laboratories’, that, while speaking a very different language, are emblematic representatives of a re-appropriation of an architecture we have lost. On one side, Edoardo Tresoldi, defined ‘the artist of the absent matter’, brings to life vanished architectures of the past with his monumental mesh constructions. The others belong to a current of ‘eco-visionaries’, who aim to recover the dialogue between man and nature that over time has been dangerously interrupted. Through reinvention of a natural material, the bamboo, they re-propose heritage of skills to innovative design possibilities of the 21st century.
Environmental issues of high-urbanized cities have brought a new appeal to the tranquillity of the countryside, and abandoned traditions that harmoniously blended with nature. The coldness of concrete with the dull tones of its monolithic slabs has sprout too rapidly with invasive strength in China mainland, proposing constructions that appear foreign and unaffectionate toward its people. During 2016 in the rural village of Baoxi, dispersed among pristine green mountains, 600 kilometers from Shanghai, was held the first ever International Bamboo Architecture Biennale. Twelve eco-visionaries, international architects, have hand-knitted eighteen permanent structures that still today appear spontaneously merged with the idyllic context. A deep ‘green’ thread runs through the fabric of each building, closely sewed in the conscious selection of local materials, primarily the bamboo, used for centuries, due to its sturdy flexibility, in traditional Chinese rural constructions, along with earth clay and stone.
The collective effort has been addressed to support natural formulations well integrated with the green local setting and to encourage the persistence of an ecological lifestyle. The cutting-edge realizations have not only made explicit that could exist a fruitful future collaboration between contemporary architecture and traditional materials but added a cultural value and chances of sustainable survival to the place. New destinations have been envisioned: nests, translucent cocoons, and braided light-meshes morphed into a youth hostel (Anna Heringer), a museum of Celadon ceramic (Kengo Kuma), a laboratory for ceramists workshops (Keisuke Maeda / George Kunihiro), an experimental house (Mauricio Cardenas Laverde), a bamboo-production research and design center (Li Xiaodong). A strong artistic spirit imbues the environment, inspiring especially new generations, with the possibility to be trained in vernacular techniques that must not fall into oblivion.
International Architecture Bamboo Biennale: Qiantao GE, courtesy of China Design Centre (www.chinadesigncentre.com)
Edoardo Tresoldi (https://www.edoardotresoldi.com) Basilica di Siponto (8,10) & Etherea (9,11) © Roberto Conte, Incipit (12) © Fabiano Caputo