Design collective Penda has developed a concept for a flexible, portable hotel made from rods of bamboo, designed to bring guests closer to nature (+ movie).
One With the Birds was developed by Penda – a design collective based in Vienna and Beijing – for the AIM Legend of the Tent competition in China, which challenged architects to develop low-impact tent-themed hotels offering a closer connection with the outdoors.
Penda, whose other projects include a Beijing gallery with swooping curved arches and a doughnut-shaped house, came up with a concept for a flexible bamboo structure that can be easily expanded horizontally and vertically.
"The structure could grow as tall as the trees," Chris Precht from Penda told Dezeen. "Connected to the verticality of the trees, we can experience a forest from the perspective of a child climbing a tree, in between the treetops, with the birds – fully connected with nature in 3D and HD."
Penda took inspiration from Native American tipis for the structure, which would be built with X-shaped bamboo joints that hold horizontal bamboo rods in place. The horizontal rods support the flooring, and the joints could be multiplied horizontally and vertically to increase the width and height of the structure.
"The span of each structural grid is 4.7 metres, so quite narrow, and eight sticks of structural beams are combined at each joint, so the system will be able to hold a lot of weight," Precht said.
"The great thing about a flexible grid is that you can add structural beams when necessary, so if there is going to be more load on one part of the structure, more bamboo can be added."
The more joints in the framework, the more stable it also becomes, according to Precht. "It's like people carrying a load – tough for one, but easier in a team."
The structure would be raised slightly off the ground, so changes in levels could be easily accommodated. Joints would be tied together with rope, rather than fixed with nails, keeping the bamboo intact so it could be disassembled and reused in other projects.
"The focus was to create a connection which leaves no impact on the site, nor any harm on the bamboo itself, so after the temporary hotel is deconstructed, the materials can be re-used as scaffolding on a construction site or reused as another temporary hotel on a different location," said Precht.
Penda chose bamboo for its availability and flexibility in China.
"It is used all over China as scaffolding on construction sites for low- and high-rise buildings, and it can be transported easily and set up again on a different site," said Precht. "This flexibility was our starting point for One With the Birds."
"Furthermore, our intention is not just to link the structure to a natural surrounding, but also connect nature to the structure," said Precht. "Ivy and other plants can grow on the grid, and over time they can take over the whole bamboo structure and transform its appearance."
Penda is now developing the concept into a mock-up, with the eventual aim of finding partners to work on larger-scale structures such as temporary hotels. Precht says the system could also be used for emergency shelter in disasters.
"The system can be used wherever there is a need for a temporary, flexible structure," he said. "As designers, we like to give people a framework which they can use however they want. We don't need to tell them what to do, because they know best. That's the beauty of a flexible grid."