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Here’s how India is reinventing Bamboo for the future

  • Ideas & Inspiration
Sep 20, 2023
Sustainable bamboo creations by Sandeep Sangaru – Beautiful Homes

We explore the Indian designers, architects and artisans who are unveiling bamboo’s untapped potential through sustainable innovation

Bamboo, a fast-growing grass found abundantly in Asia, Africa and Latin America, has long been utilised as a versatile building material across the globe. But beyond its traditional uses, bamboo is now being transformed into a sustainable and innovative solution for architecture and design globally and in India. Architects and designers are finding novel ways to take advantage of bamboo’s strength, flexibility and renewable nature to create contemporary buildings, furniture, fashion, art pieces and the like that are both functional and visually striking. From bamboo skyscrapers in China to bamboo homes and community structures across tropical regions, designers today are proving that this common grass has untapped potential as a construction material in the 21st century. Bamboo's renewability, durability, and aesthetic appeal make it an important material to watch as sustainable design evolves.

 

On World Bamboo Day this year, we spotlight some of the most innovative bamboo-based designs in India that showcase its incredible potential:

1. HOUSING WITH BAMBOO

Indian architect Neelam Manjunath is renowned for sustainably integrating bamboo into contemporary architectural projects. For over 30 years, Manjunath has used bamboo as a versatile, renewable building material through her firm Manasaram Architects, designing everything from bamboo micro-housing to mass housing estates using prefabricated bamboo components. Her inventive projects like the Cocoon House and Bamboo Symphony showcase bamboo's structural and aesthetic potential for modern spaces, overcoming early scepticism from critics by proving bamboo's strength and sustainability compared to concrete and timber. 

Cocoon House by Ar. Neelam Manjunath – Beautiful Homes

Cocoon House by Ar. Neelam Manjunath.

Bamboochi by Captain Shashishekhar Pathak – Beautiful Homes

Bamboochi by Captain Shashishekhar Pathak.

2. BICYCLING ON BAMBOO

In 2012, Captain Shashishekhar Pathak—an avid cyclist fascinated by engineering and hands-on building—decided to create a bicycle using bamboo grown in his own field. With quality craftsmanship and technical perfection as his inspirations, he developed BAMBOOCHI from start to finish, offering a customised frame and component selection options. Each bike is designed for maximum speed and comfort, offering a quick yet comfortable ride attributed to the vibration-dampening properties of bamboo. Today, Pathak dreams of taking this project to villages to create more job opportunities.

3. A CELEBRATION OF THE FOREST

For a religious festival in Kolkata, architect Abin Chaudhuri’s design studio constructed a Pavilion of Canopies inspired by the celebrations of the local tribes and their symbiotic relationship between the community and the forest. In a hope to raise awareness about conserving the forestlands, the pavilion was constructed with the support of bamboo posts, with 19 discs—each measuring 10 feet in diameter—laid out in a 60-foot circle and then raised to 20 feet. This was contrasted with 38 planes of undulating fabric to create a parametric canopy that surged like the tangled vegetation of a forest. 

Pavilion of Canopies by architect Abin Chaudhuri – Beautiful Homes

Pavilion of Canopies by architect Abin Chaudhuri.

By placing LED drop lights within the spaces of each fabric panel, the design replicated the effect of witnessing shooting stars through a canopy of trees in the Bengal countryside. Local artisans were also employed to create handcrafted birds for a forest-like atmosphere, and as a means to encourage and employ their art. The bamboo structure is also sustainable because it will be reused in future community events.
 

 

4. CRAFTING BAMBOO

Kerala-based artist Lenin CP is reimagining bamboo as a compelling artistic medium through his evocative nature-inspired installations. After years designing functional bamboo products, Lenin now devotes himself to sculpting this abundant grass into imaginative forms. In a recent exhibition titled "Hiraeth - A Pining For The Past", he transformed bamboo using bending, layering and weaving techniques to mimic aquatic motifs, such as shells in a riverbed with flowing curved bamboo strips layered to craft larger shells protecting smaller ones. ‘Reflection’ evokes leaves and vines with flat bamboo slivers emerging like plants from a dark reflective pool. His most elaborate work ‘Reverie’ uses bamboo to recreate swaying underwater plants and lighting to simulate sunlight dancing on the water's surface.

 

Sustainable bamboo creations by Sandeep Sangaru – Beautiful Homes

Sustainable bamboo creations by Sandeep Sangaru.

5. THE ARTIST AND HIS BAMBOO

Award-winning Indian designer Sandeep Sangaru is renowned for his contemporary, sustainable bamboo creations. Over eight years of experimenting with bamboo varieties, Sangaru has honed the craft of transforming this versatile grass into functional art. From furniture to household objects, his studio's bamboo works marry refined aesthetics with utility. Sangaru's foundation is his field research—immersing with Tripura craftsmen to learn traditional techniques, then innovating those methods for contemporary applications. His intervention of design thinking into bamboo craft has earned global recognition, most significant being the Beijing Design Triennial. 

Yet Sangaru's ultimate vision is an ethical one—collaborating with rural artisans to create a sustainable livelihood model that preserves traditional skills. By building an appreciative clientele for Indian bamboo craft internationally, and developing new techniques that maximise bamboo's potential, Sangaru proves that tradition and innovation can merge to create social impact and renew perceptions of this common material.
 

6. HANGING ON BAMBOO

NID Ahmedabad faculty Pravinsinh K Solanki creates poetic bamboo forms that reimagine this common material. A workshop in Nagaland sparked his interest for this abundant, renewable grass, leading him to craft sustainable products at NID's Centre for Bamboo Initiatives. Solanki shapes the sustainable material into refined designs, most unique being his sculptural hangers. With raw bamboo splits, he bends, buffs and carves graceful hangers that compete with clothes for closet attention—from travel-sized to display-worthy. His minimalist creations combine functionality with sleek aesthetics, focussing on simplicity, purity of material and unique finishing to create bespoke forms. 

Bamboo cloth hangers by Pravinsinh K Solanki – Beautiful Homes

Bamboo cloth hangers by Pravinsinh K Solanki.

The SHACK restaurant in Nashik by architect Akshay Jadhav – Beautiful Homes

The SHACK restaurant in Nashik by architect Akshay Jadhav.

7. A BAMBOO RESTAURANT

For The SHACK restaurant in Nashik, architect Akshay Jadhav charted a sustainable design centred around bamboo, leveraging the strength, beauty and climate-responsiveness of the sustainable material to construct 75% of the structure. Skilled craftsmen used three indigenous bamboo varieties for the columns, trusses, bridges and a 70-ft-wide convex ornamental roofing. Circular, elevated bamboo huts emulate traditional machaans for an immersive dining experience, while curved walls and roofs reduce wind load and improve ventilation. The eatery visually demonstrates how bamboo can transcend its vernacular roots through careful contemporary application to become a material of both function and fantasy.

8. WEARING BAMBOO

Bamboo silk is a luxurious, sustainable textile made from the pulp of bamboo grass stalks. This incredibly soft, breathable fabric is produced by regenerating the natural fibres found in bamboo plants. As bamboo absorbs more carbon dioxide and emits more oxygen than similar plants, the fast-growing bamboo stalks have become an abundant, renewable resource for fabric production, which are processed into a silky, smooth fibre that requires just a third of the water needed for cotton production. This makes bamboo silk a low-impact, eco-friendly material that avoids draining resources. Bamboo silk's natural antibacterial properties prevent odours even during sweat-inducing activities, with the fabric's breathability keeping the wearer cool and comfortable by swiftly evaporating moisture. In addition to its sustainability, bamboo silk offers the supple feel of silk without harming silkworms, providing a vegan, humane alternative. Since no pesticides or fertilisers are used when cultivating bamboo, this hypoallergenic material is ideal for sensitive skin, combining the luxury of silk with the breathability of linen and durability of cotton.

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