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Bamboo German-Chinese House

Case Studies, Exteriors, Features | January 1, 2011 | By:

Germany and China—Moving Ahead Together Expo 2010, Shanghai

What’s not to love about the German-Chinese House (GCH) designed by architect Markus Heinsdorff for Shanghai’s Expo 2010. Aesthetically provocative, eco-friendly and functional, GCH was a sort of new-age dream house. Visitors loved it. Organizers loved it. And a review, published in Munich’s respected Süddeutsche Zeitung, called it the structure that translated the Expo 2010 theme to its fullest. Its innovative design, sustainable materials and accessibility symbolized the two countries’ cooperative spirit in the fields of culture, tourism, education, environment and trade. Due to popular demand, GCH stood several months after its scheduled June 30, 2010 teardown.

GCH was constructed from recycled bamboo, bamboo laminate, Ferrari‘s Précontraint 902 S2 textile and steel cables. Temporary, the two-story 250m2 structure “is made of some of the most environmentally compatible, high-tech building materials,” states Heinsdorff. “Almost everybody who passed the bamboo pavilion had to touch (out of fascination) the structure and the material. The visitors were impressed by the idea and the entire look and feel. It can be said that the integration of the bamboo, and the fabric membranes was a perfect combination.”

Conceptually, Heinsdorff’s goal was to design a “future-oriented” building that used materials from nature—in this case bamboo—and create a high-tech structure that fulfilled the mandates of being sustainable and environmentally-friendly. Fireproof, exceedingly strong, recyclable and naturally beautiful, bamboo was Heinsdorff’s obvious choice. He also liked the fact that the GCH was easily assembled and disassembled, with little if any environmental impact, and without destroying the material.

Heinsdorff chose Ferrari’s Précontraint 902 S2 textile for its sustainable properties. He was impressed with its lightness, high performance and durability, calling it the “ideal ally of bamboo.” Its guaranteed recyclability was of utmost importance, supporting his sustainable architectural model. He also liked its translucency, resistance to pollution and low maintenance. That the fabric could be modified for both the roof and façade’s triangular panels was also a plus. “Fabric membranes provide the designer with a lot of freedom in the process of creation,” he states. “This is very useful when it comes to forming the roofs and creating the facade.” Moreover, the fabric allowed for air circulation, was a constant natural source of illumination and could be insulated.

For Heinsdorff, fabric is also aesthetically pleasing. “The use of a fabric, or a transparent membrane, gave the pavilion a luminous, almost futuristic quality. Its translucency gave the building a friendly touch from the inside and out,” he states.

Heinsdorff also believes that GCH’s design expresses mobility and he draws a comparison between it and “the fantastic structure of a Mongolian jurte (yurt). It is like a house that I can take with me in all seasons of the year.”

Mason Riddle is a contributing editor for Fabric Architecture. Her case study of Behnisch Architekten’s Unileverhaus appeared in the Nov/Dec issue.

The German-Chinese House will be featured in Heinsdorff’s future book Markus Heinsdorff–Design with Nature. Currently, he is working on a project developing “textile buildings” for the future.

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