Another bamboo bicycle? Yes–but the vehicle devised by Alexander Vittouris departs from the funky, tiki-bar-friendly lines made from this sustainable, globally ubiquitous grass. A design student at Australia’s Monash University, Vittouris envisions a bicycle that isn’t built, but grown–the bamboo stalks of the frame being trained into shape while the plant is growing. Inspired by arborsculpture, in which tree branches are fixed in expressive shapes that they take as the plant grows, Vittouris wants to develop a reusable framework that would shape bamboo into nearly finished bicycles.
While arboculture is a craft practice rather than a mass-production technique, its application to bamboo–which may be cultivated inexpensively, and grows with astonishing speed–offers at least a coy gleam of scalability. Manufacturing traditional bicycles expends energy and injects waste into the world, whether the frame is some space-age alloy or bamboo. Vittouris by contrast proposes “engaging the environment in (the) production phase through photosynthesis and carbon storage till ultimate destruction.”
Vittouris’ bicycle, which he calls the Ajiro, remains a concept; the project is a finalist for the James Dyson Award, a prize for student work offered by Good Design Australia. But even as conjecture, it’s an inspiring glimpse of a different kind of production. The Ajiro goads the blog State of Green to imagine “farmlands full of bamboo manipulated over various structures” in place of bland and wasteful manufactories. Will we ever see green fields of bicycles–or chairs, or bedsteads–growing in the sun? Perhaps not. But even as design fiction, Vittouris’ Ajiro may help us ask questions about the things we make. Perhaps by switching our metaphors from manufacturing to cultivation, we’ll find the seeds of sustainability.