Weaving Life Itself

During the lecture on textiles, I became fascinated with the idea of weaving and textiles evolving from the need to enclose. I immediately thought of a blog post I saw about a year ago from renowned BBC photographer Timothy Allen (who I highly recommend checking out). While travelling for the filming of Human Planet, a BBC series documenting the wide spectrum of unique cultures all around the world, Allen and the rest of the team followed rumors of a region in India, Megahalaya, where the local Khasi people wove bridges over water out of living roots. Rumors turned out to be true in the best way possible.

"Wahthyllong" root bridge in Megahalaya, India.

“Wahthyllong” root bridge in Megahalaya, India.

These root bridges allow for easy crossing over the intricate network of waterways in the Megahalaya region. They are formed by the creation of a structural framework made of bamboo, followed by the seeding of two banyan plants, one on each side of the river. As these fast growing plants mature, they are guided along the bamboo supports until they are self-supporting. As the plant structure solidifies over the subsequent years, the addition inlaid stones and handrails makes the bridges much safer to walk along.

Underside of Wahthyllong root bridge, showing the intricate organic latticework that makes up the structure.

Underside of Wahthyllong root bridge, showing the intricate organic latticework that makes up the structure.

The Khasi root bridges represent the ultimate in sustainable architecture. Rather than growing and then harvesting even a rapidly renewable resource to build something, the Khasi have chosen instead to create their structures using life itself. Their process represents not just environmental sustainability, but cultural as well due to the time span of each bridge’s construction requiring multiple generations of Khasi “organic engineers” to be trained in.

Khasi villager guiding banyan plant along bamboo framework.

Khasi villager guiding banyan plant along bamboo framework.

 

*All image credits go to Timothy Allen.

http://humanplanet.com/timothyallen/2011/03/living-root-bridges-bbc-human-planet/

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