Day 2: Bamboo Pod 3 Prototype

Day 2: Bamboo Pod 3 Prototype build at Mr Box, Ningbo.

30 June 2021

Day 1 (click here) started with retrieving the 16 mini sized arcs (with the wrong sized bamboo battens which were sent from the mountains yesterday- what a palaver). We are working on a 1:2 scale bamboo model. We noticed some off shaped ones so we re-measured them all. Plan had to change slightly accommodating the wrong size of bamboo battens as the hoops are mostly floppy!

We put up the temporary support: The centre column and three guy lines. We considered putting the 1:2 structure in between the existing planters so we can guy them up with additional guy on the concrete grill. This particular exercise is useful for the real size build, most definitely we will also need a temporary structure.

The bigger the diameter of the hoops, these non supported ones (from about #13 onwards) got really floppy and tended to twist. The team decided to proceed and added horizontal supports once all 16 hoops were in place.

The first layer of horizontal supports were up, then we continued with the next layers. In total we had 5 layers and the more we put the horizontal elements, the more stable the structure was. We removed the guy lines before adding the 5th layer, which was not planned. The joy of physical model making!

Then it was the acid test whether the structure will be self-supporting despite the wrong dimensions. We also learnt that probably 50mm would have been too wide for 1:2 scale, so not all mistakes went unreflected on. 20-25mm wide would have been a better size as the main structural system for this play tent for kids 🙂

Generally Matt and I are really happy with these two days. It was planned for three days, but some of the students had emergencies so we decided to start on Tuesday instead. The light rain on Tuesday morning presented a challenge, especially for Nancy whose flowing summer dress got wet every time she crouched down- which was a lot- but at least it kept things cool. It got quite hot in the afternoon. I enjoyed the experience as well, and knowing this project does not stop here gives me something to look forward too as a lecturer.

A few things we want to address for the final build are: the joints (zip ties are amazing for this kind of purpose but we rely too much on them: a more sustainable option such as hemp could be the better option),  the floor ideally needs to have a base, and the possibility to be flat packed with stretchy horizontal joints so they can be a movable pod would all be good adjustments.

Final Bamboo Pod 3: Rendering (credit: Group 1)

Our keen makers: Romance, Patricia, Francy, Serena, Nancy (Jianan Wang) and Joy (Qiaoyi Zeng)

Facilitators: Dr. Mia Tedjosaputro and Matt Wallwork

Thank you also goes to Neal (Fan Zeran), Wang Yin, Chenchu and Mr Box for making it possible.

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Day 1: Bamboo Pod 3 Prototype

Day 1: Bamboo Pod 3 Prototype build at Mr Box, Ningbo.

29 June 2021

The day started with the participants arriving from various parts of the city to participate in this extracurricular, unofficial project. Nancy and Joy- two preliminary year architecture students from the University of Nottingham- travelled with Matt (Academic English teacher at University of Nottingham Ningbo China) and Mia (part time lecturer in both universities, Ningbo University and Nottingham) and we met up with Francy, Patricia, and Romance (Ningbo University architecture students, in year 4) at Xin Yi Yuan tea house. The first order of business was to collect the bamboo from the new camping shop at Black Box café, who had kindly stored it since it was delivered early that morning.

Final Bamboo Pod 3: Rendering (credit: Group 1)

The bamboo pod design was part of Digital Architecture 2021 module in Ningbo University for Year 4 architecture students, it is developed and facilitated by Dr. Mia Tedjosaputro. The parametric design was generated by Group 1 as part of their Assignment 1 group submission, using Rhino 3D and Grasshopper. The team members are: Romance, Patricia and Houda. Due to the fact that most architecture students from NBU are still abroad due to the pandemic, only a handful number of students are in Ningbo and some of them joined this workshop.

Final Bamboo Pod 3: Rendering (credit: Group 1)
Bamboo Pod 3: Partial Design Statement (credit: Group 1)

After brief introductions, including the café’s resident friendly cat, the 1:25 scale model making began. The students were spilt into two groups with a nice mix of Ningbo Uni and Nottingham students, so there was great collaboration between the two universities from the outset.

The students worked well to overcome the minor problems that inevitably appear during any construction project and overall this was a very valuable learning experience. This whole exercise is a prelude to a full-scale build of the structure in September. We only explore the main structural system which comprises of 16 hoops, testing out before we build the full scale of bamboo structure.

After lunch we started to build the 1:2 scale prototype. We had to deal with what appear to be a quite disastrous material sourcing. The 60 pieces of bamboo battens we requested was 50mm, and what came was 5mm wide. Structural system is affected, but we have to adapt and improvise. Quite a number of tools and materials are no longer necessary as they were prepared for the correct width.

Mr Box was incredibly accommodating for this project. Ningbo city itself is a great hive of creativity, and academic and artistic projects are really encouraged here. It is truly gratifying to be able to arrange a space for a project of this scale so easily, and to be so well supported throughout the whole project. It is immeasurably valuable for students to be able to have this kind of hands-on building experience, and for artists to have space to express themselves in a space where they will get public exposure, so the general public of Ningbo can also benefit. Here are a glimpse of Mr Box area:

Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to Mr Box, and to the Black Box café and Xin Yi Xuan tea house for being so flexible and making this whole rich experience possible. It was particularly valued by the Ningbo University students, as morale is a bit low at the moment- many of their cohort are in their home countries, unable to return to China due to Covid restrictions, and those who are here- the ones who have called Ningbo their home for the past four years- are few in number and studying online. This hands-on, face to face, practical extracurricular project was especially precious to them, so again- many thanks to Mr Box for facilitating this!

On another note, we had a couple of major catastrophes with materials, which goes a long way towards our future planning. Quite an intriguing exercise on prototyping stage, as there is no pressure to get the pod 100% up and perfect. Mistakes are expected, shall we say. Especially with a more manageable scale, 1:2. Day 2 tomorrow, bring it on!

Our keen makers: Romance, Patricia, Francy, Serena, Nancy (Jianan Wang) and Joy (Qiaoyi Zeng)

Facilitators: Dr. Mia Tedjosaputro and Matt Wallwork

Thank you also goes to Neal (Fan Zeran), Wang Yin, Chenchu and Mr Box for making it possible.


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Reused bamboo kayak build

Bamboo kayak: from firewood to floating!


Danshan Chishui, Siming Mountains, Ningbo China


This isn’t a step- by- step guide to building a bamboo kayak, as if anyone wants to build one, you can basically make it up as you go along- that’s what we did!

We had a couple of temporary bamboo structures to dismantle (click here for Bamboo Pod #1 and Bamboo Pod #2 coverage), which had been a design and build exercise for students. This left us with a lot of weathered bamboo to play with, so we decided to make a kayak.

Dismantling Bamboo Pod #2
Dismantling Bamboo Pod #2’s base

Video: cleaning dismantled materials

When bamboo has been exposed to nearly a year of rain, snow, sun and wind, it becomes very hard but quite brittle. For the curves we needed for the kayak however, it was fine. There are numerous ways of making the joints- peg and dowel, hemp/ plant-based epoxy lugs, etc. but time was a factor for us and this was only a prototype, so we used plastic zip ties, insulation tape and steel fencing wire.

Cleaned dismantled materials ready to be re-used
The upside- down kayak- in progress
Taping sharp edges
Final shape of the frame
Hung frame ready to be wrapped

The skin, again for expedience, was cling film (aka Saran wrap). This is cheap, lightweight, and self-amalgamating to a degree so all we had to do was wrap the whole thing a few times, then cut a hole in the deck to get into the kayak. It was a quick and relatively easy process. We hung the frame between two trees and just span the whole frame to wrap it. We’d estimate the total amount of plastic in this build to be in the order of 100 grams or so, so it’s not ideal but not too extreme.

Video: wrapping the skin

Wrapped kayak, ready to be tested


A more sustainable build would be to use the joining methods outlined above and a natural covering- our version 2 will be skinned with hemp cloth, which is of course not even slightly waterproof, impregnated with epoxy for waterproofing. The native Americans would use birch bark, which we don’t have access to, and the Inuit would use animal skins (which we’re not convinced of the sustainability of in our context, since we have different constraints).

First trial on the water, bamboo paddle was yet to be made

We’re not kayak specialists by any means, and we’ve never made one before, so naturally enough- mistakes were made and lessons were learned. With Matt’s 86kg+ (ahem!) weight, the freeboard was too low, about 40-50mm (this is the height from the waterline to the top of the deck, where water could slosh in). The next one will be taller and more voluminous. However, it was stable, tracked straight (despite the deck being a bit warped), and light to paddle.

Ben tested it with the bamboo paddle. Pic courtesy of Milly

Video: Milly had a try. Video courtesy of Ben

Big thanks to Cai-cai, Lucky and the Persimmon team whom always welcome and facilitate our crazy ideas. Persimmon in Danshan Chishui is our second home in China. We cycle/hike/camp often around this area, it is 60km away from the University of Nottingham Ningbo China where our China home is. Easily accessible on our bikes.


KALA was founded by Mia and Elza Tedjosaputro, in May 2020. KALA provides high quality stylish home decor and accessories that highlight a few simple attainable changes towards an eco-friendly lifestyle. There is always an Indonesian touch ensuring we empower our craftsmen and promote Indonesian culture and craftsmanship. KALA’s specific design language is the use of natural materials and artisanal, with a sense of play of texture and product functionality. We are based in Indonesia and China.

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