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HZAU Assigns Creative Work: Making Modern Art with Bamboo

A coursework of the Landscape Architecture Department of Huazhong Agricultural University has produced a series of artistic titles that impress us all, such as Seeking Ice, Burning Autumn, Half-step Garden, Phoenix’s Habitat, Geometry Beauty, Folding Artistic Landscape. In the professional course called Architectural Design——Bamboo Structure Construction offered by the department, more than 60 students in two classes were divided into eight groups using a truckload of bamboo to build artworks. They spent nearly a month building eight pieces of modern art on the open space in front of the Zhang Zhidong statue.

The bamboo structure is combined with the micro garden. Image credit: Zhao Jiayi, HZAU Xuetong News Agency

A large-scale “cross-course” Assignment

As for the reason why to get students to make artistic works with bamboo, Shao Jizhong, professor from Landscape Architecture Department, told the reporter that “bamboo structure” is a module of the professional course. In contrast to drawing and modeling in the previous time, this year he, after discussing with several other teachers, decided to give students a shot at literally making bamboo structures in a way that cultivates students’ craftsman spirit and teamwork ability.
“Compared with brick and wood, Bamboo is a relatively simple material for landscape construction, making it more suitable for students’ practice. More importantly, in traditional Chinese gardens, bamboo has always been a symbol of the Literati Spirit. That’s why we want to bring China’s traditional culture into the curriculum system,” Shao said.
According to Shao, though the students finished the works within a month, actually it took them the whole semester to prepare for the project and bring their works alive. First, each student should draw a design map according to bamboo’s properties including elasticity, toughness and structural characteristics; then gradually make a model according to the ratio of 50:1, 20:1, and 10:1; then form a group to discuss a physical plan. “This is a cross-course practice. From the picture, the bamboo structure seems most conspicuous, but in fact, what they’ve designed is a comprehensive garden, so they are also in need of a whole range of knowledge as included in other related courses such as architectural design, structural mechanics, material mechanics and related courses.”
As to the sources of so much bamboo, Shao said that in order to give students the best experience, the teachers began to design this course from last semester. They ordered different types of bamboo, bamboo strips, and bamboo pieces from a processing factory in Zhejiang. “It’s not easy to transfer to Wuhan such a full truck of materials.”

A student is screwing the bolt. Image credit: Zhao Jiayi, HZAU Xuetong News Agency

Drills enable students to give full play to their creativity

Shao was very satisfied with the students’ performances, “They are so insightful and creative that they have turned the knowledge of structural mechanics into a matter of artistic aesthetics.”
“Half a step into the garden, full a sight of the glory.” Wang Yufei and Xiong Yiding of the “Half-step Garden” construction team told reporters that their design was inspired by the moon gate in the classical garden which uses the ring frame to view objects so as to maintain the atmosphere and attract attention on relatively tranquil paths. At the same time, the deep S-shaped curve expresses the toughness and streamline beauty of bamboo. In order to emphasize the three-dimensional change, they also wrapped a hemp rope around the S-shaped arch. In the end, the arch was covered by flower fences that echo with the inside, forming a complete structure of the half-step garden. “We hope that those who come will be able to hold back their fast-moving hearts and stop at the scenery that they haven’t noticed.”
In the construction process, how to make the bamboo structure “standing” is one of the difficult problems faced by the team. “We haven’t specialized in structural mechanics, so we have to rely on our previous physical knowledge and the reference materials from our teachers,” Wang Yufei said. In the process of making bamboo structures, electric saws and drills are often used. For eight members who are all girls, “it’s the first time to use these tools. And it’s very interesting.”

“Half-step Garden” . Image credit: the interviewee

Wang Xiangyi, majoring in landscape gardening in the Department of Landscape Architecture and working this time as a member of the “Folding Artistic Landscape” group, also gained a lot from this course design through their special experiences like investigating the terrain and working in the rain. She told reporters, “In the past, we used PVC panels to build models and 502 glue to bond things together. This time we’re feeling authentic bamboo.”
Wang Xiangyi also introduced that during the construction process, their group members were always working, rain or shine. She remembered that the day before the completion of “Folding Artistic Landscape”, it rained unstoppably in Wuhan from 8 am to 8 pm, but they still insisted on completing the work in the rain. Their work was actually completed two weeks ago. These days, the students are busy finishing the final design drawings. They also videotaped the “big project” which could be a rehearsal for their future work.

Translated by: Li Juan
Supervised by: Xie Lujie