My path as an autodidact architect crossed with bamboo when we were still living in Bangkok and had a beach house an hour south of the city. Every time we went there my family enjoyed their holiday and I was repairing something. In my search for more functional and durable materials than steel and concrete, I was made aware of bamboo. And once I studied its properties, I was convinced I found what I was looking for – a material stronger, lighter, longer lasting, and much nicer to look at than steel.
We moved to Chiang Mai and when my wife decided she wanted to have a school, I did a lot of research, hired knowledgeable people, and started building. I always learn best by doing. In the beginning, we built like most others at that time with big bamboo poles in triangular arrangements as structural support. But I was soon unsatisfied with the limitations and the spaces created with that kind of design. I prefer organic flowing curves and irregular designs and arches. So we started experimenting with using smaller species of bamboo that are more rod-like with no holes and bundling them to create arches. First smaller pavilions but soon I felt the need to take bamboo into a different dimension.
At that time my vision became clearer that we want to take bamboo into mainstream architecture and construction. So we had to find a solution for scaling to bigger sizes and to make our structures more understandable and replicable. The breakthrough came when I was sitting in a big market hall listening to blues music. The hall was made of conventional steel trusses and a metal sheet roof and had a terrible acoustic. I thought if could make this kind of structure from bamboo, acoustics, heat, and atmosphere, everything would improve. At that time we were asked by the school management to design and build an indoor sports hall. So I tasked our resident engineer to calculate bamboo trusses with two connected arches big enough for a tournament basketball court. It took several months and several iterations until the new path of prefabricated big trusses was born. To make sure I asked another engineer who was experienced with bamboo to confirm our calculations and he did. Since then we have built 80 bamboo structures some bigger some smaller and refined our structural roof design as well as our esthetic design. But still, I feel that this is just the beginning. With every building we make, we learn from our mistakes and try to move the bamboo frontier further and further.