The bamboo industry is a world of gardeners, horticulturalists, architects, environmentalists and fanatics. I can check more than one of those boxes myself, as I’ve been promoting bamboo and other renewable resources for nearly 30 years. Even more fascinating than the plants themselves are some of the people I’ve met along the way. It’s amazing to see how bamboo has managed to captivate the imagination of so many enthusiasts across the globe. Some of us plant nurseries, some build schools, some open boutiques, and some make movies.

Johan Granberg has worked as an architect and a professor for more than 20 years, in Sweden, Papua New Guinea and Qatar. For the last decade, he has been meticulously researching bamboo, its history, and its role in culture and construction. The chief product of this research is his seminal documentary, “Bamboo, the Tradition of the Future”. Dedicated to the selfless promotion of bamboo, Granberg offers the film free to the public, through YouTube and countless international screenings.

Documenting bamboo for the sake of bamboo

“Bamboo, the Tradition of the Future” is a 30-minute documentary film, available for free on YouTube to anyone with an internet connection. Ten years in the making, Granberg traveled all over the world, across Asia, Africa and the Americas, interviewing experts and hobbyists, to put together this concise but captivating tribute to one of our planet’s most remarkable resources.

The end result is a brilliant compilation of footage, documenting the vital role bamboo has played in human history, and the extraordinary potential it has for guiding us towards a more sustainable future. The film’s title bears witness to the paradoxical place bamboo holds in the collective consciousness. It is both ancient and modern.

As Cui Shu from CUN Design says, early in the film, “Strictly speaking, bamboo is not a contemporary material, it belongs to nature. It has a long-standing history. It is our understanding of bamboo that it can be used as a contemporary language in space.”

Avant-garde architects recognize bamboo’s tremendous utility — strong, flexible and incomparably renewable. At the same time, traditional societies that have been aware of this woody grass for millennia often shrug it off as “poor man’s lumber.” If it’s so cheap and abundant, how could it be so important? How can it compare with those precious, Western commodities like concrete, steel and plastic?

It’s precisely this kind of misunderstanding and mischaracterization of bamboo that Granberg aims to refute with his compelling documentary. And in this, he clearly succeeds. The film is both an eye-opening introduction for bamboo newbies just getting to know the plant, and a pleasure to watch for seasoned converts who can never get enough of it. Even the most knowledgeable bamboo advocates will be impressed by the footage of contemporary construction and the insights offered in numerous interviews with industry insiders.

Bamboo--the Tradition of the Future
Johan Granberg’s captivating documentary is free to watch on YouTube.

Crusading for bamboo

By day, Professor Granberg gives lectures on design and architecture at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts’ international campus in Qatar. Meanwhile, he maintains his own career as an architect, with an emphasis on sustainable materials and environmental sensibility in man-made structures.

In addition, Granberg finds time to travel and promote bamboo through educational webinars and free screenings of his documentary. The movie has been featured at a wide variety of international film festivals celebrating environmental awareness, where it has also received an impressive number of awards and accolades.

Currently, Grandberg is putting the finishing touches on his next bamboo documentary, “The Bamboo Dialogues”. The follow-up to “Bamboo, the Tradition of the Future” promises to probe even deeper into the virtues and mysteries of this fabulous plant and those who are determined to find new and better uses for it. And I can assure you, I’m not the only one awaiting this new release with eager anticipation!

Learn more about bamboo

Our website is filled with interesting and in-depth articles about all the many facets of bamboo. To expand your expertise on the subject, take a look at some of these popular posts.