How These Magnificent Bamboo Rings Merge Music and Architecture


Art in itself is a dynamic thing. Creatives everywhere are inclined to push the envelope with new ideas, creations, and pretty much anything that can be considered innovative. The newness that comes with art takes up many shapes and forms, whether it’s from music or architecture—or sometimes, a marvelous fusion of both. 

This was the idea behind global electronics company Oppo’s collaboration with esteemed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, who created the “Bamboo Ring: Weaving a Symphony of Lightness and Form” as an installation for the 2021 Milan Design Week. Their project is founded on a multisensory approach as it mixes together architecture, technology, and even the music of Japanese violinist Midori Komachi through the Oppo wellness app O Relax.

This isn’t the first time the two have partnered up, as they first debuted their original Bamboo Ring design two years ago during the London Design Festival. According to Jintong Zhu, the head of Oppo London Design Center, the company is “delighted to partner with Kengo Kuma again, an architect who is known for seamlessly integrating nature and culture.” 

The Bamboo Ring Project

Photo by Courtesy of Oppo

Kuma’s new design is set to be on display in the Cortile dei Bagni courtyard of Milan until September 19. After that, the installation will be donated to the Arte Sella Park in Trentino where it will reside with other contemporary artworks that are also crafted for the outdoors with natural materials. 

Kuma is no stranger to architecture that integrates itself with its natural surroundings. In fact, this is exactly what his award-winning firm aims to do with each creation. His expertise comes from years of experience in the field, in addition to his Architecture master’s degree from The University of Tokyo. His firm, Kengo Kuma & Associates, aims to replace the usual concrete and steel to draw a new perspective in a post-industrial society. 

This perspective was touched on during a recent press conference, where Kuma explained his views about architecture. He believes that the materials used in building structures could be likened to instruments that are meant to draw out a specific tone. These tones would have to be matched together to create a melody. 

Kuma has said before, “When I design architecture, I’m interested in designing the rhythm and the tone rather than the silhouette, and contemporary music gives us many lessons about how to create new rhythms and tones in architecture.” Having a mindset that naturally integrates tone and structure is perfect for the creation of the Bamboo Ring project. 

Architect Kengo Kuma

Photo by Courtesy of Oppo.
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The visionary architect also detailed how the project came to life. He mentioned that trying to get the ring to float was the biggest challenge he had to face in directing the design. There was also the matter of choosing bamboo as the structure’s main material, which was a decision that was founded on good reason. Kuma stated that he chose bamboo since it is an instrument that’s used to create a special sound, and it is often used for a variety of instruments in Asia.

This speaks once again to the fusion of music into the structure as well as Kuma’s opinion on how materials are used in architecture. He believes that the main material is the basis of design. There’s a misunderstanding, he says, about materials merely being a surface on the concrete. To him, materials are “the heart of architectural design.”

Photo by Courtesy of OPPO.

A huge part of the Bamboo Ring design is technology, which is mostly done through Oppo. Its music, in particular, makes use of wearable and mobile features that allow people to hear melodies in different areas of the courtyard.

Oppo prides itself on being what Zhu calls “a human-centric brand” with a focus on “innovating for the people.” It reaches more than 50 countries and regions all over the world. It also provides a variety of smart devices, operating systems, and internet services. Its part in helping Kuma design such a project is no small feat, and it’s no wonder why it chose to partner up with the architect once again.

If there’s anything that this new design tells us, it’s that the mind is truly the only limit when it comes to coming up with creative works. Kengo Kuma’s architectural design is based on his personal views about the craft itself as well as his opinions on how it can be revolutionized—or at least tweaked in some way. 

Maybe that’s why it isn’t surprising at all that someone like Kuma could be so accomplished and creative.

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Teresa Marasigan
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