Tag Archives: TED Talk

Magical bamboo houses: When a girl’s dream takes flight


When my daughter was eight, her teacher asked her to build the house she would like to live in. She built it out of bamboo, inspired by the bamboo “forest” in our postage-stamp back yard.

It was very moving for us to watch her take this on with so much enthusiasm. The experience was filled with metaphor for my husband and me, taking a peek of what it would be like when our daughter would take her own shelter. It was also her first significant independent school project. (When I was away, my husband did drive her to the shop for supplies like paint and glue. They came back from the hardware store with actual house paint and a hot glue gun! But I digress.) Otherwise she was on her own to dream up her home.

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You can imagine my excitement when I saw this Ted Talk about a woman, Elora Hardy, who had taken a similar experience to whole new proportions. Today as an architect in Bali she creates absolutely magical schools and homes out of bamboo.

I’m writing this from a plane on my way home from a film project in Cuba, and I can’t wait to show it to my daughter tonight.

You have to watch it, if only to collect inspiration for what it would feel like to live more in sync with our natural world.

There are also many good cues to take from a storytelling perspective. It’s another example of how all the things we discuss in terms of what makes a strong micro-documentary can be used to strengthen other forms of communications like presentations. Notice how she:

  • Gets personal right away, jumping straight into the anecdote of her mom inviting her to design her dream house when she was nine, and the magical mushroom fairy house that she came up with (and later built from bamboo).
  • Teaches us about bamboo almost poetically — in a way where the education (strong, sustainable, earth-quake resistant) is woven into the personal narrative — making it much more powerful.
  • Uses humor with the joke about it taking four men to carry a load of bamboo that one woman can carry alone.
  • Exposes vulnerability (eg she still hasn’t figured out the acoustics of a bamboo bathroom and the fact that she dreams of sheetrock and plywood ), which makes her more accessible.
  • Shows humility. She talks about asking the bamboo what it is good at, what it wants to become. She is not coming from a position of conquistadora of the Balinese forest; she is humbly asking the question, What can I learn from this grass? Because of my involvement with the Biomimicry Institute, this approach especially struck a chord with me.

All of this makes it much more likely that the audience will be receptive when she makes her envisioned future clear to all of us — when she invites us to see what she sees.

I don’t know about you, but after watching this I feel at ease. What she is doing feels right. I also like her. Her warmth and competence came across strongly in this first impression, making me root for her. And I’m not the only one as you can see from the standing ovation she gets. My curiosity is also awakened. I want to learn more. What would it take for all of us to do more of this? 

The invitation to visit was clear. You can be sure that as a family we will do our best to get there. Will you join us?