Pioneering bamboo architect and sustainable designer
In just a decade, we’ve revealed the potential of an ancient forgotten material. If we’ve been able, essentially, to create castles out of grass, then what else is possible?
Tell us your story – how did you get here?
My parents fell in love with Bali in 1975. Being here gave them confidence that they could have kids while living creative lives. I grew up in the rice fields outside Ubud, and later in Begawan and Sayan. After spending the first 14 years of my life in Bali, the next 14 were in the US: boarding high school, University, then working in NYC in fashion. Finally in 2010 I decided to come home. My dad John Hardy and stepmum Cynthia had recently founded the Green School. This coincided with my need to be designing in a sustainable way, which wasn’t happening in fashion. I took on leading the bamboo architecture and construction teams, and over the past 12 years we’ve built over 200 structures — homes, hospitality projects, and entire campus and wellness center designs. Now I focus on the IBUKU design studio, and much of our work is overseas combining other local materials with bamboo.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’ve become a voice for how nature can come through us to make the future wonderful. IBUKU structures capture people’s hearts; they experience possibility and delight, and something opens up for them about how the world can be. The spaces themselves are designed to inspire brilliant thoughts. Design must be focused on people; we are motivated by ourselves, but design often gets caught up in aesthetics and style above goodness. The thing is, beauty only matters when it forever supports Earth as our home. We’ve been able to shift the world’s thinking about bamboo. In just a decade we’ve revealed the potential of an ancient forgotten material. If we’ve been able, essentially, to create castles out of grass, then what else is possible?
What impact have you made in Bali?
Much of what I have to give I learned from growing up here, and I’ve always wondered how I could be worthy of the childhood I had here, and what I could do to return the love. I’m proud that what I’ve done with IBUKU is to shift Bali’s identity and aspiration towards green design. Bamboo is now synonymous with ‘Bali Style’, through what we’ve built at IBUKU, and also what we’ve influenced through hundreds of craftsmen and dozens of other teams who’ve followed suit. Bali has been known internationally for a century as an artistic hub, and lately I’ve helped shift that toward being a global center for the kind of green design thinking that the future needs.
What does 2022 look like for you?
Hopefully, travel! We have projects in the USA, Costa Rica, Panama and the UK. I want to be on the sites where we’ve been designing, to connect with collaborators in other places with unique materials and specialities, with both artisanal and technological excellence.
What do you love most about Bali?
Magnetism and flexibility. Bali has an alchemical tendency to provoke beauty. I came back here because of that. My parents showed me that here you can have an idea, and then just make it. By connecting with existing skill, cultivating and complementing it with innovation, it’s possible to realise a whole new world.
In your opinion, what’s the most inspiring design space in Bali?
From my childhood, I would say the ancient sites and temples, like Tjampuan Temple and Goa Garba. As an adult, the place that has had the most impact on me is the Heart of School at Green School. Seeing it in 2010 is what compelled me to work with bamboo.
As for traditional Balinese buildings, what I appreciate is the personalisation, where the scale of space is tailored to the individual who will use it. Also, how buildings are seen as humans, with the roof as the head, the walls representing the body, and the foundation being the legs. I love imagining structures as another layer of ourselves, and then when we play with curves, we consider where we would want to sit and settle into a site, which way we would want to lean, where to turn our head to see the view or catch the sunlight or breeze on our face.
Who is your Local Legend and why?
Made Girawan – he trained as a traditional painter and stays rooted in those techniques and traditions while also exploring and adventuring in his themes and materials. Listening to the philosophy he shares while teaching children in his workshop, I am struck by how he balances the modern aspiration for unbridled individualistic creativity with the discipline, community and meditative practice of Kamasan painting.