Father and daughter bamboo builders Elora and John Hardy believe feeling happy and healthy in your home boils down to just one thing: being as close to nature as possible.
The pair, along with a team of designers, architects and craftspeople based in Bali, conceive and create beautiful, fantastical homes from bamboo that are about as far from most modern houses as it’s possible to be.
Their business, called Ibuku, makes homes which are curved, whimsical, tactile and often partly open to the elements. They’re also highly sustainable and each one is unique in design and inspired by the natural world.
“Living in a box is death to the people,” says John Hardy, speaking from his home in Bali. “We evolved to walk on the earth, not on perfectly flat, industrial floors. Modern homes are full of right angles – they’re not life enhancing. Look at the beauty in the world. There are no right angles.
“And the toxic crap in so many of our homes,” he continues. “What are we doing to ourselves and the planet?
“We don’t use right angles in the homes we build. We take our cues from nature and traditional indigenous buildings. The floors in our homes are often slightly ridged – they’re amazing. You wake up and you just feel happy.”
“The experience that people have in a building is much more important than what it looks like,” adds Elora Hardy. “The most powerful thing for people to get from the spaces we build is a feeling of optimism, that there’s hope and possibility and magic in the world.”
In 2007, Canadian jewellery designer John Hardy and his wife Cynthia founded Bali’s Green School – a pioneering, open air school built from locally sourced bamboo, that teaches sustainability alongside a traditional curriculum, with the aim of inspiring the green leaders of the future and educating them in the latest environmental thinking.
Together with daughter Elora and a team of talented architects and craftspeople, John and Cynthia then built the Green Village, a community of 12 unique (and very beautiful) private bamboo homes, surrounded by the lush Balinese forest and within walking distance of the Green School.
Today, they’re building the final three homes that will complete the Green Village development, and are looking for the right people to invest in a very different kind of home.
HOW IT BEGAN
John Hardy moved to Bali in 1975, where Irish artist and designer Linda Garland introduced him to bamboo as a building material. Impressed, Hardy decided that bamboo was the future of sustainable building, and vowed never to build with concrete or brick ever again.
Bamboo is flexible, light and strong, with the compressive force of concrete and the same strength-to-weight ratio as steel. It can also regenerate itself in just a few years, and absorbs more carbon dioxide than softwood trees.
“Bamboo is one of the only sustainable materials in the world that’s so prolific that we can promise it to everybody,” says John Hardy. “We certainly can’t promise everyone pine trees, the rainforest is gone, and cement is destroying the planet, but bamboo we can promise.”
John Hardy spent the next three decades building his jewellery business (to see it today, go to johnhardy.com), while also creating a number of buildings from bamboo, including his jewellery workshop and showroom.
In 2006, he watched Al Gore’s environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and was shocked into action.
Hardy decided he needed to be part of the movement spreading the word about climate change, and that education was a key starting point, so the following year, he and Cynthia sold their jewellery-making business, gathered the team and created the Green School.
“I realised that with four children, retiring and playing golf was no longer an option. I had to do something,” says Hardy. “The school came from the idea of giving something back.”
At the time, Elora was working for designer Donna Karan in New York. On a trip home, she visited the Green School and was impressed by what she saw. “I needed to be part of something sustainable. It really came down to that,” she says.
Elora moved back to Bali to lead the team of designers and makers responsible for creating the Green School and later the Green Village. The team became Ibuku – which translates to Mother Earth – a design and architecture practice that has created hundreds of bamboo structures, including private homes, a private spa on Bali, a restaurant in Hong Kong and an expansion of the Bambu Indah boutique resort in Ubud, Bali, which is owned by John and Cynthia.
THE GREEN VILLAGE
The Green Village consists of 12 luxurious bamboo homes, with a further three under construction. These final three homes will complete the community, and the developers are currently advertising for ‘property owners, renters, investors, and environmentally-conscious businesses to become a part of our Green Village community’.
What kind of person buys a home in the Green Village? “Really amazing, adventurous people,” says Elora. “The kind of person who’s seen it all – who’s experienced so many interesting, beautiful things, and is looking for something that feels authentic. People say they can really connect to nature in our spaces – to something deeper.
“People talk very passionately about the houses we build, whether they live in them or visit them,” she continues. “There’s a sense that this is the right way to live, that it’s natural and people just feel good in them.”
The latest property being built is called Eclipse and it should be complete by the end of 2018. It’s a four bedroom property, split across two buildings – the main house and the guest house – each with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.
“The house is built primarily from black bamboo, which is rare and beautiful,” says Elora Hardy. “It’s nestled among the black palms, and it feels a little moonlit and otherworldly.”
Inside the guest house, moon motifs have been used throughout. “It was a fun opportunity to take the design a little bit away from the more natural, rustic style to something more contemporary and graphic,” she adds.
For Elora and the team at Ibuku, the starting point when designing a home is thinking about the feeling they want to create. “We think about the natural spaces that make us feel safest and calmest and happiest – a beautiful grove of trees may be the most conducive space for feeling well,” she says. “When we design, we take inspiration from nature – from caves and nests. There’s a lot to be drawn from the human body as well, from its curves and forms; the way we like to lean or stretch or curl up when we’re resting.
“If you’re building a yoga space in a home, for example, you want to feel as though you can stretch as far as possible, but you also want to feel grounded and protected. We try to think about how we can create a space to encourage that.”
She believes the materials we surround ourselves with are vital to our wellbeing. “For millions of years, we’ve become used to relating to organic forms and irregularities,” she says. “They’re reassuring and comforting for us.”
“You can go for a walk in nature, or see a beautiful picture of it. But to actually be immersed in it and to be able to sleep in it. What could be more luxurious than that?”