Interior of the Area X. Photograph by Tan Gangyi

Deciding on Bamboo or Steel Scaffolding as Building Material in Rural China: The Area X Project

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The rapid process of quasi-urbanisation in rural China is promoting Western styles of architecture along with imported materials, making rural tourism less appealing. Despite the abundance of highly renewable bamboo, rural dwellers tend to overlook it for construction purposes. This essay therefore discusses the potential of bamboo architecture to help the regeneration of traditional Chinese villages. A participatory action approach was used to design and construct a touristic building called Area X in Zhengjia Shan village, Hubei province, completed in 2017. Initially we as the architects had wanted to use a bamboo structure for Area X but instead the villagers chose steel scaffolding. After explaining how the decision was made in favour of steel, the essay examines bamboo and steel in terms of their comparative environmental impacts: it shows that the steel scaffolding has a very negative impact in emitting 6,410.25 kg of CO2, regardless of its rapid assembly and reusability, whereas the bamboo version would have made a very positive impact by storing 14,384.13 kg of CO2 over the building’s lifetime. These findings suggest that the aspiration for modernity by the villagers in Zhengjia Shan took priority over environmental awareness. Hence the essay concludes by arguing that bamboo architecture should not be taken lightly, and indeed can be seen as essential given humankind’s need to adapt to climate change by only designing carbon-positive buildings from now on.

Title: Deciding on Bamboo or Steel Scaffolding as Building Material in Rural China: The Area X Project

Authors: Daniel Stamatis and Tan Gangyi

Journal: ARENA Journal of Architectural Research (UK)

Keywords: Moso bamboo, Metallic Scaffolding, Rural tourism, Architectural regionalism, Participatory design, China. 

Format: PDF

Pages: 19

Date of publication: August 7, 2019.

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