Much scope for bamboo in Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

Much scope for bamboo in Sri Lanka

22 May, 2022

Bamboo has been used extensively in Asia as a method of construction in architecture, it is easy to assemble and is extremely flexible and sustainable.

Then industrialisation erupted and monopolised architecture, and the advancement in construction technology has given rise to significant flexibility and quick architecture, but also generated many harmful effects on the environment.

The Sri Lankan construction industry is no different,  with stone or brick buildings surviving the test of time while we see very little use of bamboo in construction even in contemporary times. 

A group of hopeful activists based in the south of Sri Lanka plan to change that spearheaded by Hope® Market ( Hoper Market is a community development project initiated by Ahangama Coliving (  It is a platform created to reinvigorate the local crafts community with a gallery in Ahangama to promote and market the work of innovative Sri Lankan crafts women.

In March the folks of Hope Market  in collaboration with DXMID (A Sustainable Architecture and Interior Design Consultancy), UnaBambu (a couple of eco-entrepreuners striving to ignite the bamboo movement in Sri Lanka) and Barbar architects, (a Sri Lankan architectural practice with a strong focus on Bamboo) came together and organised the first Bamboo Lab week in Sri Lanka which was held from March 14 to  20 with a series of discussions and workshops culminating in a wonderful bamboo pavilion made purely by the hands of the participants together with the community.

The pavilion will be used for the purpose of workshops and markets for the crafts women of the south as well as a community centre for the people of Ahangama.

Here’s a recap of what happened…

Bamboo conversations

Bamboo Lab week was launched with  a vibrant panel discussion about bamboo as a form of environmentally conscious design in Sri Lanka, learning from international experts discussing  different approaches to promote the use of sustainable bamboo as an alternative  to building  structures in Sri Lanka.

The panel of speakers:

Iraklis Kalamenios

Founder of the Bamboo World Map the most complete map listing of bamboo which can be a business tool to connect the bamboo community of the world talked of his experience in his efforts to popularise bamboo in Europe.

Ewe Jin Low

An Architect and Bamboo advocate who has been Designing, building and teaching bamboo since 2015. Founder of better bamboo buildings an organisation that promotes bamboo insights and information with a range of articles as well as the author of bamboo ark, shared insights from his extensive work in bamboo in Indonesia, Philipines, Africa, the Maldives, andFiji.

Thilina Wijekoon

Architect based in Sri Lanka shared his experience learning about bamboo in Bali as well as his work in Sri Lanka

Natalia Giacomino

London based international architect with a local focus and parametric design ….discussed her experimentation design work with bamboo through parametrics from a project in china for a luxury hotel and her experiments with the pavilion design for Hope Market, Ahangama.


Co-founder and creative director of  Unabambu, Aoife O’ Sullivan emphasised the importance of creating our own Sri Lankan style through natural materials by making clear references to the Sri Lankan vernacular architecture while remembering the fundamentals of what makes a good bamboo structure.

She also shared an analogy that Ewe Jin had shared about how a bamboo structure should always  have a vibrant hat, stiletto shoes and a good rain jacket! Which was an excellent way to remember the fundamentals of bamboo construction.

She also mentioned their research into looking at natural material that work in harmony with bamboo and such as clay, Iluk and discussed how they wish to showcase and revive these materials by designing using them for 10th century living and elevate their status and again reinforcing the idea of a Sri Lankan style of natural building.

Fred Hornaday

Founder of the website bamboobatu on all things bamboo vividly discussed all monetising possibilities of bamboo from toothpicks to bio char that revitalise the soil and the need to making the bamboo industry more productive and efficient..

Greta  Tresserra

An architect from barcelon working internationally in africa and Latin America outlined why bamboo is relevant and a quick reminder of how the emission of carbon has quadrupled since 1970 since global warming and the effects of the construction industry that uses about 1/3 of the world’s energy consumption and how it is responsible for 40% of direct and indirect emissions of greenhouse gasses and 50 of the global waste which reinforces the important role bamboo plays in this climate change phenomenon.

Went on to reiterate bamboos renewable, recyclable, biodegradable properties and how its the vegetal species which has the biggest carbon fixation capacity and its sustainable relationship with the territory and how it contributes to climate change mitigation.

Greta also shared her personal project Bamboo Hub as a response to all the context described which is an interdisciplinary group of people dedicated to promoting the use of bamboo in all its forms - design to teaching and shared her journey with bamboo for different projects from Columbia to Europe and different live projects with universities and her insights on transferring knowledge and working with communities.

This was followed by a lively discussion on the status of bamboo in Sri Lanaka and Old misconceptions associated with bamboo as a poor man’s timber and the strict regulations associated with it at the moment and how to overcome these restrictions and move forward -  Hope Market  

Model making By Thilina 

 Thilina is the Director of Baabar an Architectural Consultancy Service based in Sri Lanka. He received his Masters of Architecture in 2012 and became an Associate member of Sri Lanka Institute of Architects in 2014. Having worked with many different architects in different projects over 10 years he got himself exposed to a range of architectural styles allowing himself to explore and experiment further with his own projects.

After a short visit to Bali in 2018 he started to explore bamboo as a construction material and he has been experimenting with the material ever since. Being an expert in the art of model making throughout his career he now wishes to share his knowledge and conducted a model making workshop in bamboo emphasising the value of models specially in bamboo construction.

Bamboo VSD treatment By Unabambu

Una Bambu was set up in 2019 by two eco-entrepreneurs, Julien and Aoife, following an intensive bamboo training with world-renowned bamboo developers Ibuku and Bamboo U in Bali, where they trained in receiving the hands-on knowledge required in working with bamboo as a construction material; species identification, sustainable harvesting, preservation methods and design and build.

Eager to bring that know-how to Sri Lanka, using biophilic design and green building concepts the company developed their UNA concept, a bamboo eco-hotel designed by Nomadic Resorts (Wild Coast Lodge, Yala). The company’s mission for UNA is to showcase the value of locally grown bamboo for construction and ignite the bamboo movement on the island.

Aoife and Julian shared their learning from Bali about the various types of bamboo available in Sri Lanka and their strengths and weaknesses in terms of construction and also demonstrated a preservation and treatment method of the Vertical Soak and Diffusion system.

From theory to reality - bamboo construction in Sri Lanka

By Unabambu, Thilina, DXMID, and professionals and students of architecture and many other participants

The weekend of the workshop was spent building….all participants got their hands dirty and minds full where they got to apply all that they learned and more onto the construction of a beautiful pavilion at Hope® Market garden in Kabalana- Ahangama. 

The main structures were pre assembled on the ground on the first day and  mounted the roof structure on the second day.  The pavilion will now function as a space for the crafts women to engage in their crafts and showcase their skills to hope® market visitors.

– Hope Market