The Bamboo Bridge

Bamboo can be made into all manner of things these days. You can buy bamboo jewellery and bags, and clothing made from bamboo is becoming less of a phenomenon and more of an accepted production technique with ethical clothing manufacturers. Check back to our article from last June on bamboo bikes for a truly innovative use of the material.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that bamboo bridges were the kind of construction you’d be more likely to come across in deepest Asia, however, in a bid to avoid conventionality, an eighth bridge has been built across the River Tyne in Newcastle over the last fortnight. Measuring 100 meters in length and with two 25 meter towers at either end, it is a formidable structure. Although it’s only a temporary installation, this latest enormous work of public sculpture in the North East has raised almost as many eyebrows as the Angel of the North did.

The Bamboo Pillar

Find out more about the bridge after the jump…

The artistic justification the Australian creators, Bambuco, give to the work is as follows:

“The sudden disappearance of the installation at the end of the project asserts the essential, ephemeral nature of the work. Into the newly cleared site rushes an absence – an empty space – that would not have been there prior. This impermanence plays with impression, memory and our understanding of positive and negative space. It the heart of the work.”

The primary question from an ethical standpoint is the justification for using 20 tonnes of bamboo in a sculpture which will remain on the quayside for a mere three days only, as an introduction to the SummerTyne Festival 2008. The sheer scale of the construction is staggering, and what will become of it all after it has been pulled down?

Whatever the practical answer is to the specifics of this Geordie bamboo, the crucial lesson to be learnt is that bamboo is one of the only natural materials that it would be possible to achieve this feat with. Bamboo is an incredibly strong and hardy plant and has been used for thousands of years to build everything from scaffolding to railway bridges.

The creators of the Newcastle bridge are careful to point out that each shipment of bamboo that they receive is used several times, but more importantly what should be noted is that bamboo is a very sustainable crop, with some varieties capable of growing up to a meter a day without the assistance of environmentally damaging pesticides.

So all in all, although this bamboo bridge doesn’t compete with the Tyne bridge or the legendary St. James’ Park in terms of permenance on the North East skyline, it can teach us a thing or two about a thing or two. Whether you go in for the artistic theorising behind its conception or not, it is an impressive piece of work, and they’re using probably the most sustainable material around to make their statement.

And for the keen gardeners out there, they are selling off-cuts of the bamboo for a snip down on Newcastle’s quayside. Unfortunately you won’t be able to make it grow again, but pop some soil inside, plant some seeds, and hey presto, you have a very green plant pot – alongside the paper potter, these should be great for all you fans of Garden Shed Week!

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