BSC (H) ARCHITECTURE DEGREE SEM 4 ASIAN ARCHITECTURE CASE STUDY PAPER KHX
ASIAN ARCHITECTURE (ARC60403/ARC2234)
PROJECT PART B: CASE STUDY PAPER
Usage of Traditional Building Materials in Great
Bamboo Wall to Integrate With Surrounding
Physical and Cultural Context
1. Wong Zhen Fai 0317890
2. Yan Wai Chun 0319626
3. Khor Hao Xiang 0318065
4. Teo Hong Wei 0322990
5. Eddie Poh Goh King 0322915
6. Yeoh Xiang An 0322691
Tutor: Koh Jing Hao
Usage of Traditional Building Materials in Great Bamboo
Wall to Integrate With Surrounding Physical and Cultural
Table of Contents Page
Abstract ……………………………………………………………………………..………………. 2
1.0 Introduction ….………………………………………………………………..…………………2
2.0 Existing Physical and Cultural Context of Site ………………………………………………3
3.0 Usage of Bamboo in Vernacular Aspect ……………………………………………………..7
4.0 Usage of Bamboo in Visual and Form Aspect ………………………………………………10
5.0 Usage of Other Traditional Building Materials …………….………………………………..13
6.0 Conclusion ………….………….……….………………………………………………………18
7.0 References ……………………………………………………………………………………..19
The content of this research is aimed towards the discussion of Kengo Kuma’s use of
traditional building materials; especially bamboo, in the design and construction of the Great
Bamboo Wall dwelling. Through his signature style of incorporating traditional building
materials in his style of architecture, Kengo Kuma successfully integrates the building to the
surrounding context in terms of the visual and cultural aspect. The ﬁrst segment of this
research study is directed towards breaking down the individual components of what forms
the existing physical and cultural context of the site. Once the foundation of the research
topic has been understood, the discussion is then directed towards a more in-depth
investigation of how the usage of bamboo in particular has resulted in a successful
integration within the context through the vernacular and, visual and form aspect. The usage
of other traditional building materials are also discussed.
The architect of our research topic is Kengo Kuma, a renowned Japanese architect
celebrated for his signature style of displaying the essence of Japanese roots through the
usage of traditional elements along with the contradictory contemporary style. The Great
Bamboo Wall dwelling is one of the many projects in the Commune by the Great Wall
development. In this development, 12 Asian contemporary architects were chosen to each
design their own assigned dwelling to be located in close proximity to the Great Wall of
China. According to (commune.sohochina.com), the Great Bamboo Wall has a total of 6
bedrooms with one bathroom each and the primary space; the tea room, is surrounded by 4
sides of lean bamboo with gaps in between in order for the users to view the magniﬁcent
landscapes of China and a beacon tower of the Great Wall. The dwellings, or more
commonly referred to as villas, are usually targeted towards individuals of the wealthier
Bamboo plays a hugely signiﬁcant role in the design and construction of the Great
Bamboo Wall. It is responsible for shaping the form of the dwelling, bringing in natural
lighting and creating poetic spaces for the user. Bamboo also serves as the bridge between
the local vernacular context and the contemporary design of the dwelling. Below are the
research questions and topics of interest that were targeted in this research paper.
1. How does bamboo, as a building material, promote integration with the surrounding
physical context in terms of visual appearance and form?
2. How does bamboo, as a building material, promote integration with the surrounding
cultural context in terms of material characteristics and cultural signiﬁcance?
3. If bamboo was to be substituted with a modern building material, what will be the
difference and impact to the original concept?
4. What were the existing and signiﬁcant elements of the physical and cultural context
that were focused in depth with during the design process?
5. How does the modern construction method incorporate with the traditional building
materials to achieve the essence of the material?
2.0 Existing Physical & Cultural Context of Site
The existing physical and the cultural context of the site are the crucial roles and
are deeply in consideration on the Great Bamboo house design. For instance, the verticality
of the bamboo canes facades created a sense of transparency and fragility which tie the
house in with the rough image of the surrounding physical context and generated the feeling
of interior spaces exterior simultaneously. The principle of this design is to apprehend the
essence of the natural light, airﬂow and the available landscape.
One of the reason Kengo Kuma used bamboo as the main material for the Great
Bamboo house is because of his signiﬁcant style, ‘Erasing‘ architecture. By using bamboo
canes from the local, the Great Bamboo house’s appearance merged or blended into the
surroundings effectively as it created the metaphor of forest or bamboo forest.
Framing the Landscape
Bamboo canes act as device to frame the existing landscape is signiﬁcantly
important to generate the sense of integration with surrounding nature as well as meditative
feels. Trees with thin trunks were planted around the site with certain distances as to ﬁt in
the narrow gaps between the bamboo canes. Different feelings and colours of nature can be
captured during different seasons throughout the year.
Figure 2.0: Autumn view of Great Bamboo House
Topography and Skyline
Topography of the site affected the height and levels of the Great Bamboo house.
The house itself lie on a slope terrain which created one and a half storey. At the higher
ground of the site, height or skyline of the Great Bamboo house can be made with the
reference of ancient Chinese domestic architecture, which one storey height can be easily
The existing historical structure, the Great Wall of China, which built much more
higher on the top of the mountain generated differences between the skyline of the Great
Bamboo house and the skyline of Great Wall of China. For instance, the sense of dominance
of the Great Wall of China is well maintained even though it is a historical structure.
The chosen site for the Great Bamboo house is signiﬁcantly important as it has the
essence of culture and a sense of history of China. It is located within the historical site
Great WallSlope terrainAncient Chinese domestic architecture
Figure 2.1: Diagrams indicating the height of Chinese domestic
architecture in relation to Great Wall.
(Source: Yan Wai Chun)
Figure 2.2: Diagrams indicating layout of Great Wall on the left and circulation of Great
Bamboo House on the right.
(Source: Yan Wai Chun)
which is near to one of the gate of the Great Wall of China, in Shuiguan. Thus, the cultural
context of the site is also one of the crucial aspect to be concerned while Kengo Kuma is
designing the house.
An obvious observation can be perceived as the usage of bamboo throughout the
Bamboo house created an opposition in terms of physical sense of quality. The light and
fragile of the bamboo canes contradicted to the solidity and the sense of gravity created by
the structure of Great Wall of China.
Besides, the inner form of the Great Bamboo house is affected by the cultural context
of the site. The inner form of spaces of Great Bamboo house were organised in such order
that were similar with the Great Wall of China. It contained a unobstructed hallway as the
connector of every stations which similar with the inner spatial of the Great Bamboo house,
a corridor that connected to every different spaces.
Figure 2.3: Solidity and fragility of Great Wall and Great
3.0 Usage of Bamboo in Vernacular Aspect
What is Vernacular Architecture?
Before further elaborating the aspects of contribution in terms of bamboo as building
material in vernacular architecture, we must ﬁrst know what vernacular architecture is about.
Vernacular architecture is one of the many ﬁelds in architecture that serves to meet speciﬁc
needs of the locals, in the meantime accommodating and respecting the values, cultures
and way of life that reﬂects their local traditions. Vernacular Architecture is always evolving
as the time passes by to reﬂect the most current environmental cultural, historical and
technology of the context which it exists. In other words, vernacular architecture is achieving
human’s needs with the simplest form. The following images bellows shows the simplest
examples vernacular architecture across the world:
The Igloo house found in the Antarctica, strongly reﬂects the vernacular architecture
in terms of local environment in climatic needs as well as the construction materials which is
snow as it is found abundance in the context while being a suitable building material.
Figure 3.0: Igloo House
The Log Hut found in Valley Forge also an obvious vernacular architecture as the
area which are rich in trees will tend to develop a wooden vernacular, while on the other
hand if the context doesn’t have as much trees as this are, they may use mud or stone
Despite these variations, it can be strongly concluded that vernacular architecture is
sustainable and will not deplete or exhaust the local resources. And for the Great Bamboo
Wall, the vernacular aspects are presented in three categories which is much related the
criteria of being a Vernacular Architecture in the sense of Climatic Needs, Built
Environment as well as Culture and History of the context.
The Great Bamboo Wall is located at Beijing, China, which is having a temperate and
continental monsoon climate, with four seasons that have big difference in temperature
between day and night, especially during the summer season where it’s extremely hot and
humid. With the usage of bamboo as building material and varying the intervals between
bamboo placements of the external walls, climatic ﬁltration is achieved. The loosely placed
Figure 3.1: Log Hut
vertical placement of bamboo on exterior and partition walls allows breezes to freely
penetrate through the entire space as there are no barriers from external until the interior.
Therefore, the Great Bamboo Wall has achieved the vernacular aspect on resolving the
climatic condition of the site.
Other than resolving the climatic needs, the use of bamboo is also vernacular in the
built environment aspect. For instance, China is known as the ‘Kingdom of Bamboo’ due to it
having the most bamboo in the world and its abundance use of it as material. Therefore for
the geographical factors, bamboo is used as the building material for the Great Bamboo Wall
as it is widely found on site, using it as building material will cause the least impact to the
environment with addition of bamboo’s characteristic being strong and rapidly renewable, in
the same time harmonizing the landscape and needs of guest.
Figure 3.2: Great Bamboo Wall Tea Room on the left and Climatic
Filtration Ventilation Diagram on the right.
Culture & History
Furthermore, bamboo is also culturally significant to the site. The Shang Dynasty
period has seen the usage of bamboo in the production of weapons and daily objects.
Bamboo strips were also tied together to form a flat piece of writing medium that was
commonly used before paper was invented. This is because bamboo strips cost generally
lesser, were more durable and were easily found in the local context. Bamboo has thus
played an important role in spreading and developing traditional Chinese culture and it is
closely connected to the daily lives of the local people at the site. Therefore, using
bamboo as building material reminds them that bamboo is the root from their
advancement and development today, and also a form of respect towards the local people
for using their culturally significant material. The following image shows some of the
appliances used by the Chinese during the olden days:
4.0 Usage of Bamboo in the Visual and Form Aspect
The form of The Bamboo wall is strongly affected by the usage of bamboo and the
site context. The material of the building is having a strong relationship with The Great Wall
which is located next to the Bamboo Wall, which is to create a strong contrast between
concrete from the Great Wall and bamboo from the Bamboo Wall. The main intention for its
Figure 3.3: Traditional Bamboo items.
rectangular form is to seamlessly coexist with the Great Wall and the site topography, which
the feeling of running endlessly is created by the colour and repetitiveness of the bamboo on
the facade in relation to the site context.
The visual aspect of the Bamboo Wall is strongly affected by the usage of bamboo.
The view from both inside and outside of the Bamboo Wall are seamlessly ﬁltered with
bamboo so that the user of the building will be unaware that there is an actual barrier
between inside and outside of the building. Vertical arrangement of bamboo on the facade
creates an illusion of the bamboo stalks extended all the way into the terrain.
Figure 4.0: Great Bamboo Wall sitting on the site context.
Figure 4.1: Vertical Arrangement of Bamboo stalks on the facade.
The sensory experiences in the tea room are hoisted by the cool slate ﬂooring,
smooth bamboo stalks and the shallow reﬂective pool which mirrors the landscape from
outside into the interior and emanate sounds of serenity associated with water.
Usage of artiﬁcial lighting is cut down because bamboo and glass rooﬁng materials
used allow sufﬁcient sunlight to enter the building.
Figure 4.2: View of scenery through the tea room.
Figure 4.3: Dining Area with sufﬁcient natural lighting.
Speckled light penetrates between the thin bamboo stalks, creating a feeling of being
in a forest of Asia. Different density and diameter of the bamboo offers the diversity of space
partitioning. The bamboo positioned side by side encloses the living area and stairwell. With
varying gaps in between, an illusion of the bamboo shoots are hovering above the ground is
created. Also, creating ﬂoating and breezy partitions.
5.0 Usage of Other Traditional Building Materials
Figure 5.0: Diagram of other important and local materials.
(Source: Yeoh Xiang An)
Figure 4.3: Seamless boundary with the scenery.
The traditional building materials that are seen in traditional Japanese architecture
are reusable and recyclable, which is a feature of sustainability.
Figure 5.1: Construction of a small wooden house in the Japanese traditional style by using
Traditional Building Materials
(Source: Japan: The ofﬁcial guide, Architecture, 2010)
What is the usage of other traditional building materials?
Figure 5.2: Earth
(Source : Contemporary Design in Detail: Sustainable Environments by Yenna Chan)
Walls made of earth known as tsuchikabe was an ideal construction material
because it suited to the speciﬁc climate conditions of Japan (very humid summers). Earth
would absorb moisture, and release it when conditions were dry.
The use of earth as a building material is prevalent in many cultures around the world. Earth
is readily available - always at one's feet - and very versatile. Earth is a good insulator and is
strong against wind and, depending on how it is used, even rain. It can be mixed with other
materials to increase its strength and durability and to add texture and color. The ﬁrst use of
earth in architecture in Japan was as the ﬂoor material in ancient dwellings.
Figure 5.3: Stone
(Source : Material Immaterial: The New Work of Kengo Kuma by Botong Bognar)
The stone is locally sourced, environmental friendly and low cost. Stone of all the
materials used in traditional Japanese architecture, stone is the most permanent - it is
durable, strong, heavy, and rough. But it also can be light, smooth, and delicate. In
traditional Japanese buildings and gardens, of stone are used to show its particular
character and the vast possibilities of its expression. As a permanent, durable material,
stone is used as the foundation under / column or wall as retaining wall for a garden or
terraced rice paddy. Light, delicate material, stone is used to represent moving water in
gardens or to give texture and pattern to tamped earth ﬂoors (tataki) and mud plaster walls.
Each stone is carefully chosen by the builder or garden designer for its speciﬁc use based
on its. As well as a number of stones work better as structural elements than others.
Figure 5.4: Rice paper
(Source: Traditional Japanese Architecture: An Exploration of Elements and Forms By Mira
Rice paper (smooth, thin, strong) is named as a wrapper for rice. Made from bark
ﬁbres of the paper mulberry tree, the use of rice paper, in Japanese buildings is one of the
main component. A rice papers are used for various purposes in the Japanese building,
common feature of the home in the form of rice paper sliding doors and screens.
Figure 5.5: Wood
(Source : Japanese Architecture : woods and traditional homes, 2013)
Wood is the most important material in Japanese architecture because the volcanic
nature of the islands ensures that there is little for suitable stone work to use.
Wood is a particularly sustainable material as it typically has a long life cycle as well as
the capability to be easily reused and recycled.
Wood is also can be durable, and can be reused, reshaped many times; eventually useful
as fuel and source of ash. Due to their complex joinery system traditional Japanese
buildings were constructed without using nails or adhesives of any kind, thus allowing
them to be easily dismantled and the materials reused.
Japanese architectural aesthetic was based on articulated, jointed frames, and the
possibility of removal, reuse, and recycling. Because of the complex joinery system, wood
is the most abundantly utilized natural material in traditional Japanese architecture.
Wood was especially suited for architecture in Japan because it absorbs humidity in the
wet months and releases moisture when the air is dry, assisting in creating a comfortable
Wood, although most abundant, was not the only natural material featured in traditional
Japanese architecture; earth was also a commonly used resource. Just as wood was
chosen for its climate assisting abilities, earth and other wall materials were selected for
their abilities to help maintain a comfortable environment within the building.
Bamboo despite not being widely used anymore, still serves as a purposeful and
versatile building material to be used by contemporary architects. Previously used during
ancient times due to its abundance in the local Chinese and Japanese context, its structural
advantages and its natural aesthetics, there is still plenty of room for exploration and
creativity in the future.
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