Bali bamboo experiences

Spending a month+ in Ubud Bali during the hot summer of 2016 I got the chance to visit and experience some of Elora Hardy jungle jewels.

Originally the brainchild of jewelry designer John Hardy, who moved to Bali in the 1970s, Green Village continues to grow and thrive thanks to Hardy’s daughter Elora. Growing up on this beautiful, spiritual island gave Elora an appreciation for nature, and though she lived in the United States for 14 years, studied fine arts, and designed prints for Donna Karan, she moved back in 2010 and founded Ibuku. Since then, Elora and her team of Indonesian architects, engineers, and interior designers have created more than 60 bamboo structures in Asia including private homes, a yoga pavilion at the Four Seasons, Tri restaurant in Hong Kong, Como Marketplace in Singapore, and a handful of open-air bamboo treehouse suites at Bambu Indah, the boutique hotel in Ubud founded by her father and stepmother, Cynthia Hardy.

“Bamboo is so versatile—it can be the star, the defining feature of a space, the wow—and it can also feel invisible, natural, like a nest or cocoon around you as if it wasn’t ‘designed’ or ‘built’ at all,” Elora says. “We try to listen to the bamboo, understand how it would be best used, its unique characteristics, and design for it.” Needless to say, working with bamboo poses challenges that architects who employ more conventional materials don’t have to deal with. As she explained in a 2015 TED Talk, bamboo has been used as a building material for thousands of years, but if left untreated, it will get eaten by insects and disintegrate. So she and her firm, Ibuku, protect it by safely treating it with a natural salt. Bamboo is hollow and doesn’t lend itself to 90-degree angles, so Ibuku’s homes feature gently curving walls. Doors, too, are circular in some cases, hinging on a central axis instead of one side. Since it’s important for the bamboo to stay dry, bathrooms feature copper showers and sinks carved out of river stones. Electricity and even air conditioning are incorporated into the structures. Bespoke furniture is designed and created out of bamboo and other natural materials.

Elora and her team have consistently pushed themselves to find ingenious solutions to the challenges posed by bamboo. “A lot of the problem is the curves, but that’s also the magic and the opportunity. Just as the best clothes wrap around real curves in just the right way, the way a house curves around you can feel just right,” Elora explains. “But it takes a different mind-set to get it right. Bamboo doesn’t follow the rules of the past few centuries of architecture and construction—it’s literally a different shape, being round and hollow and tapering. So as designers, we have to learn, then develop, then write the rules for ourselves, to suit what we see is possible with bamboo.” She likens her design approach to the way an artist works on a canvas. Rather than trying to create a specific vision on a blank page, she prefers to spill the ink and see how it flows.

During my stay in Ubud I also got the chance to try BLANCO par Mandif exquisite restaurant in the jungle and was hosted by master chef Mandif M Warokka.