Bamboo is being used in everything these days: cutting boards, bikes, folding houses, and furniture. Its versatility, however, is truly evident in the exhibition New Bamboo: Contemporary Japanese Masters at New York’s Japan Society. Images of the exhibition show bamboo doing things you don’t really think of it doing: curving into rope-like knots, weaving into mesh, twisting into triangular angles. While immediately captivating your attention, it also makes you wonder of the un-explored potential of this sustainable material.
The fastest-growing woody plant in the world, bamboo, has been a cornerstone of the sustainable design movement as a renewable source material. Of the more than 1,000 recorded species, the running varieties tend to spread quickly through a network of rhizomes. Some plants have been recorded growing as fast as 121 cm a day. These characteristics can make it an aggressively invasive plant but ideal as a rapidly-replicating wood stock.
In New Bamboo, the wood is used in inspiring new manners to create wreaths, sheaths, baskets, patterns and shapes in ever-increasing levels of complexity. In green design, we commonly see bamboo treated and used as a lightweight, durable hardwood and its fiber processed into paper and fabric. In this exhibition, however, we see it shaped, quite literally, in entirely new directions. Paying homage to the native lands of this sustainable crop and the cultures it was cultivated by, New Bamboo is a retrospective on this star of green materials.