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Understand Bamboo Better: Exclusive Interview With The Director Johan Granberg

14th ThinkBamboo Podcast with Johan Granberg, Director, the movie “Bamboo Dialogues

Bamboo, often underestimated and misunderstood, holds tremendous potential as a sustainable building material

ThinkBamboo Podcast – where we interview the movers and shakers in the bamboo industry. In this episode we talk with Johan Granberg about his project, the movie “Bamboo – Tradition of the Future” and its sequel, three years in the making “The Bamboo Dialogues” focusing on raising awareness and understanding of bamboo. Both are Non-profit crowd-sourced movies. Johan is an architect and interior designer who works as Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts he is located in Qatar and Kenya. The discussion covers the challenges and opportunities of using bamboo as a building material, including its durability, cultural significance, and misconceptions surrounding it.

See Video Podcast Interview

Video podcast interview with Johann Granberg and JJ from ThinkBamboo

Video Quick Links

[00:05] Johann Granberg discusses his non-profit, crowd-sourced movie on bamboo.
[07:26] Bamboo workshop led to a conference in Papua New Guinea
[14:10] Movie making is complex and time-consuming
[20:31] Networking was easier during the pandemic
[27:21] Bamboo has unique properties but cannot be compared to steel or concrete.
[34:33] Bamboo has a rich history and potential for modern use
[40:58] Bamboo can be a sustainable solution for regulating temperature on highways.
[47:40] To make bamboo successful, it needs to be a common building material & easy to use.
[54:22] Bamboo Community is generous with knowledge

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A Non-Profit Crowd-Sourced Film Project

Harnessing the Internet’s Power

Johan Granberg, the visionary behind the movies, utilized the best of the internet to create a non-profit film project. By tapping into the collective wisdom and expertise available online, he crafted a highly relevant and important narrative to enhance our understanding of bamboo, a topic often overlooked.

Movie: Bamboo--the Tradition of the Future
Movie: Bamboo – the Tradition of the Future.
Premiered Mar 19, 2020 – 1M views (June 2023)

Bamboo – the Tradition of the Future” is a documentary exploring the contemporary uses of bamboo in architecture, showcasing its potential and challenges. It introduces us to visionary architects and designers who have developed unique solutions using bamboo as a material for the future. The film highlights bamboo’s versatility, rapid growth rate, structural properties, and its potential for carbon sequestration, while emphasizing the need to expand its recognition beyond its concentrated knowledge hubs. The movie has received multiple awards, including Best Documentary Short, Best Cinematography, and Honorable Mentions for Editing at prestigious film festivals worldwide.

Unraveling the Misunderstandings of Bamboo

Bamboo remains a less understood material, plagued by misconceptions. The movies aim to dismantle these misconceptions and shed light on the true potential of bamboo in the modern world. By bringing together a diverse range of perspectives, Johan challenges the status quo and encourages viewers to reevaluate their assumptions.

Johan Granberg’s Unique Journey

From Sweden to Qatar and Kenya

Johan Granberg, an architect and interior designer, currently serves as an Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts. His architectural journey took him from his native Sweden to diverse locations such as Qatar and Kenya. This exposure to different cultures and environments fueled his passion for exploring the possibilities of bamboo as a building material.

Transitioning from Chemical Engineering to Architecture

Originally trained as a chemical engineer, Johan realized that his passion for travel could not be fully satisfied in that field. So, he made a career shift to architecture and interior design. Surprisingly, he found a connection between his chemical engineering background and architecture, as both fields require spatial understanding and an appreciation for materials.

The Exhilarating Experience of Teaching Architecture

Johan’s journey led him to become an educator at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts. Teaching architecture in an international setting was an exhilarating experience for him. He seized the opportunity to combine architecture, art, and engineering by organizing a conference in Papua New Guinea, where international professionals gathered to exchange knowledge and learn from one another.

The Bamboo Dialogues: Creating a Cinematic Experience

A Transformational Medium

The Movie sequel, three years in the making, “The Bamboo Dialogues”
The Movie sequel, three years in the making, “The Bamboo Dialogues”

Film has the power to transform our perception of the world and evoke emotional responses. Johan emphasizes the role of film in creating an immersive experience that connects viewers to the subject matter. He draws a parallel with ocean documentaries that have successfully raised awareness about protecting marine ecosystems and believes that bamboo can similarly benefit from the power of film.

Photo: Johan Granberg Director of „Bamboo – Tradition of the future”

The film production team is currently in the process of submitting their work to various film festivals globally. Due to this ongoing endeavor, they are unable to make the film available online at the moment. Consequently, they are actively seeking alternative venues worldwide, such as schools, universities, exhibitions, happenings, associations, and institutions, that are suitable for hosting free in-person screenings. If you or your organization are interested in collaborating and hosting such a screening, please do not hesitate to reach out to them.

The Bamboo Dialogues seeks to answer the questions: What is this material? and Why are we not using more of it in contemporary design, engineering, and architecture? The narrative of the movie spans five continents and is told by “bamboo whisperers”: such as engineers, artisans, students, architects, designers, historians, biologists, and farmers as well as bamboo constructions and artifacts.

Unveiling the Anthropological Aspect

In “The Bamboo Dialogues,” Johan collaborates with his colleague a anthropologist to bring a fresh perspective to the project. By merging their expertise, they aim to bridge the gap between anthropology and bamboo’s cultural significance. This unique approach adds depth and richness to the films, offering viewers a holistic understanding of bamboo’s historical and social context.

Navigating Challenges During Production

Film production is no easy feat, and Johan acknowledges the challenges faced during the making of the sequel. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted their workflow, forcing them to collect material remotely and adapt their plans. Despite the setbacks, the team’s determination led them to create a full-feature film that explores various aspects of bamboo, surpassing their initial vision of three short films.

Bamboo’s Paradigm Shift.

From “Poor Man’s Timber” to Sustainable Solution

Traditionally, bamboo has been referred to as the “poor man’s timber,” often associated with poverty and low-quality construction. However, Johan Granberg’s films aim to challenge this perception and showcase bamboo as a sustainable and versatile building material. Bamboo’s rapid growth, strength, and carbon sequestration properties make it an excellent alternative to traditional timber and concrete.

Embracing Sustainability and Environmental Benefits

The paradigm shift surrounding bamboo lies in its potential to address pressing environmental issues. Bamboo forests have the remarkable ability to absorb more carbon dioxide and release more oxygen compared to other trees. Moreover, bamboo’s quick growth cycle and its capacity to thrive in various climates make it a highly sustainable resource.

Empowering Local Communities and Fostering Social Change

The use of bamboo in construction has the potential to empower local communities economically and socially. By promoting bamboo as a viable building material, the films inspire dialogue and collaboration among architects, engineers, and local artisans. This collaborative approach not only creates sustainable livelihoods but also preserves cultural heritage and strengthens social bonds.

The Future of Bamboo in Architecture

Innovations and Advancements

Johan Granberg envisions a future where bamboo is embraced as a mainstream building material. Ongoing research and innovation are pushing the boundaries of bamboo construction techniques, exploring its potential in high-rise buildings, bridges, and other large-scale structures. The films serve as a catalyst for further exploration and experimentation, inspiring architects and engineers to push the boundaries of what is possible with bamboo.

Bamboo as a Driver of Economic Growth

As the demand for sustainable and eco-friendly construction materials grows, bamboo has the potential to become a significant driver of economic growth. Developing bamboo industries and supply chains can create jobs, support local economies, and contribute to sustainable development goals. By recognizing the economic opportunities associated with bamboo, governments and industries can foster its widespread adoption.

The Importance of Education and Awareness

To fully realize the potential of bamboo in architecture, education and awareness play crucial roles. Johan emphasizes the need to incorporate bamboo into architectural curricula, enabling students to explore its properties, design possibilities, and construction techniques. Additionally, raising awareness among the general public about bamboo’s benefits can shift consumer preferences towards sustainable building practices.

Challenging the misconceptions surrounding Bamboo

Through his non-profit film project, Johan Granberg is challenging the misconceptions surrounding bamboo and advocating for its widespread adoption in architecture. By harnessing the power of film, Johan aims to inspire and educate viewers about bamboo’s cultural significance, sustainability, and transformative potential. As the paradigm shift continues, bamboo emerges as a viable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional building materials, empowering local communities and driving positive social and environmental change. With ongoing research, innovation, and increased awareness, bamboo has the potential to shape the future of architecture and contribute to a more sustainable world.