Australian design student Alexander Vittouris came up with an interesting way to make a bicycle: You grow it.
You've undoubtedly seen trees before tied off and allowed to grow into heart shapes, ladders and the like. Vittouris' "Ajiro" bike employs these techniques, called arborsculpture, to grow bamboo into the shape of the bike's skeleton.
Conventionally, shape modification of wooden and bamboo materials is achieved 'post' harvesting, by using energy intensive methods such as steam or heat bending. However, the proposal is for the structural frame of the vehicle to be grown on the outside of a skeleton inner structure, with all energy being derived from the plants natural process, contributing to its ultimate growth....The manipulation and intervention is...akin to a farming process, whereby bamboo plants need time for thorough establishment to form the required energy mass to produce new culms. The vast array of species available also lends such a mobility concept to be locally grown, creating distributed, localised production....
Embracing a natural process, affords knowledge of a somewhat different kind. Products take time to create, they take resources. Growing sections to be used in ones personal mobility teaches that material worth is beyond that of 'discardability,' ones own efforts, witnessing growth, creates a tangible link to the very history of the product. Growing materials for direct transference to products also indicates other possibilities for maximizing a single materials use, rather than relying on either multiple materials or processes to fulfill criteria.
So will it actually work? No idea, but the idea was sound enough to make Vittouris a finalist in the Dyson Awards. Click the link to read more about the project.