Handmade School in Rudrapur
Published in 2A Magazine Issue #15&16 Autumn 2010 Winter 2011
Anna Heringer was born in 1977. She spent one year in Bangladesh (1997/98) as development learner. Since then she is involved in development work. She studied architecture at the University of Arts Linz, where she graduated in 2004 with her diploma: “School-handmade in Bangladesh.” She realized the “Handmade-school” in partnership with Eike Roswag and together with a team of craftsmen from Bangladesh in 2005/06. She continued her work in Bangladesh in implementing her ideas of sustainable architecture in rural housing projects. An important focus of her work is the training of young architects in various lectures and hands-on workshops. Since 2008 she is heading the studio “BASEhabitat – architecture in developing countries” at the University of Arts in Linz where she is a visiting professor. In 2010 she received the nomination as Honorary Professor of the UNESCO Chair “Earthen Architecture”. Anna Heringer won several awards, amongst them the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the AR Emerging Architecture Award (2006 and 2008) and the Archiprix- Award – for the world best graduation projects.
To me architecture is a tool to improve lives.
The vision behind, and motivation for my work is to explore and use architecture as a medium to strengthen cultural
and individual confidence, to support local economies and to foster the ecological balance. For me, sustainability is a synonym for beauty: a building that is harmonious in its design, structure, technique as well as in the use of materials and with the place, the environment, the user, the socio-cultural context – this, for me, is what defines its sustainable and aesthetic value.
I believe that development only happens when you see the value in something. Then you are ready to invest your time, energy and passion to bring out the best of it. Therefore the main aim of my projects is to change the image of the natural building materials and to motivate people to believe in their own potentials, their skills, their craftsmanship and their cultural identity.
Handmade School in Rudrapur
The school`s philosophy is to facilitate the children, making the best out of their potentials. This philosophy is transformed into architecture: to use existing potentials to make the best out of it.
The primary potential for construction in the rural areas is human labour as main energy source and locally available, ecological building materials such as earth and bamboo. The project’s main strategy is to develop and communicate knowledge and skills within the local population so that they can make the best possible use of their available resources. Traditional building techniques are improved and the skills passed on to local craftsmen.
At present earth and bamboo have a negative image as building materials amongst the local population. They are seen as `material for the poor` and people seek for industrialized materials such as brick or concrete. Through a good, contemporary design with an authentically local identity the building wants to motivate the people to have faith in their potentials in order to facilitate a further development of these highly sustainable materials.
Besides this the school building is aimed to be a place where the children can learn with joy!
The school aims to promote individual abilities taking into account the different learning speeds of the children in an open form of learning. The architecture reflects this principle and provides different kinds of spaces and atmospheres to support this approach. On the ground floor with its thick earth walls, three classrooms are located each with their own access opening to an organically shaped system of ‘caves’ in the back wall of the room. Theses spaces are for retreat, exploration or concentration – on one’s own or in a group.
The upper floor is light and open, the windows in its bamboo walls offering sweeping views over the village. Graphical patterns of light and shadows from the bamboo strips play across the earth floor and contrast with the colorful materials of the saris on the ceiling.
DESI – building
DESI (Dipshikha Electrical Skill Improvement) is a vocational school for electrical training. The building houses classrooms, offices, and residences for the school instructors. It is a new interpretation of the traditional Bangladeshi homestead that reacts on needs of the changing society.
The crucial moment in development is the step from low-income to middle class houses. The trend in Bangladesh shows it very clear – while the typology remains the same it is a shift in materials: from earth to bricks or concrete. What the project wants to show is that the difference between a basic and developed architecture lies in an increased input on craftsmanship, on technical know-how, creativity and a profound planning – not in the choice of a material. This shows a very fair way of development that doesn’t create a contradiction between poor and rich nor old and modern. It is a motivation for enhancing craftsmanship, a support on local markets and an increasing cultural pride and a sense of identity.
The DESI building wants to show a reasonable balance of high tech and low tech. Basic building methods are combined with modern, alternative energy systems. This strategy is within finance reach also for developing countries and reaches even a higher level in energetic self-sufficiency as many „green“ buildings in industrialized countries. DESI is an attempt to a radical energy efficiency at all phases of the building: it`s production as well as use and decay. The only energy needed for the production and construction were about twenty-five tractor journeys of five kilometres and the charging of the batteries for three drilling machines. Anything else was waterbuffalo- or manpower. Because the building is passively heated and cooled as well as optimizes natural light and ventilation, the relatively small solar panel and battery system provides 100% of the power the building requires during it`s usage. Since the building materials are mainly earth and bamboo, the building is almost entirely compostable.