German architect Anna Heringer’s project- Anandaloy in Bangladesh has won the Obel Award- a new, international prize for architectural achievement presented annually by the Henrik Frode Obel Foundation, founded by Henrik Frode Obel (1942-2014). Heringer used bamboo and mud to design this multifunctional building, which hosts a center for people with disabilities combined with a small studio for the production of fair textiles (Dipdii Textiles). SURFACES REPORTER (SR) presents an exclusive glimpse of this award-winning project provided by the architect. Take a look:
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Exploring the Plastic Abilities of Mud
The Anandaloy building`s architecture explores the plastic abilities of mud in order to create a stronger identity. Mud is often regarded as poor and old-fashioned material and inferior to brick. But for Studio Anna Heringer, it doesn’t matter. What matters is their creative ability to use it in a contemporary way. To show the beauty and capacity of mud, it is needed to bring out the best of it and not just to treat it as a cheaper version to brick. With that particular mud technique, called cob, no formwork is needed and curves are just as easy to be done than straight walls. Through her extensive years of experience, Anna has developed her personal philosophy of the architecture that allows her to bring happiness and meaning to the people’s lives.
A Real Catalyst for Local Development
For Studio Anna Heringer, architecture is a tool to improve lives. The strategy of all of the projects no matter if in European, Asian or African context is the use of local materials + local sources of energy (including manual labor) + global know-how. Because the Anandaloy project is mainly built out of mud and bamboo from local farmers, the biggest part of the budget was invested in local crafts(wo)men. Thus, the building is much more than just a structure, it became a real catalyst for local development.
This project is the accumulation of the learning process of all the five previous projects in Rudrapur, including METI School. Unlike the other projects that were under German supervision, the site was managed by the Bangladeshi contractor, Montu Ram Shaw and the team of the mud and bamboo workers from the village, including some persons with disabilities. As for Studio Anna Heringer know-how transfer is key, this project is a great proof that the knowledge is now really rooted.
A Therapy Center Incorporating A Textile Factory
Often disabilities in Bangladesh are seen as a kind of punishment and challenge from God or bad Karma from a former life. Because of this they are rather hidden, than included. Besides this poverty forces every grown-up member in the family to work and mostly people with disabilities are left on their own during the day. Places for therapy are rare in the country and not existing at all in that rural area of Rudrapur.
In the beginning the building was planned as a therapy center only, but the studio was able to extend the building into another story, hosting Dipdii Textiles, a studio for the female tailors in the village.
This part of the building’s programme is co-initiated and taking care by Studio Anna Heringer in order to allow women to find work in their villages. It is an effective counteract to the urban-rural migration.
The concept was also not only to provide therapeutic treatment for the people with disabilities, but also provide them an opportunity to learn and work in that building and engage in the community there. Everybody wants to be needed.
A Big Ramp
As a visible sign of this inclusion, a big ramp winds up the first floor. It is the only ramp in such larger area. Already during the construction, it had become the topic of discussions amongst many local visitors who were coming to see the site. What is the reason for that ramp? Why is it important to guarantee access to everyone, no matter if healthy or not? How can the lives of people with disabilities be improved? How can inclusion be incorporated?
Unlike the other buildings in that area that are erected in a rectangular layout, the Anandaloy Building breaks out of the mold. It dances in curves, the ramp winds playfully around its inner structure. On a symbolic level the building signals: it is great that we human beings are all different. With its joyful curves it radiates the message: diversity is wonderful!
Start of planning: September 2017
Construction: September 2018 - December 2019
Client: Dipshikha Bangladesh
Site: Rudrapur, Dinajpur district, Bangladesh
Sponsor: Kadoorie Foundation, Lutz & Hedda Franz Charitable Trust
Concept and Design: Anna Heringer
Project management/drawings: Stefano Mori
Consulting: Martin Rauch (earth and bamboo details), Andreas Guetling (roof construction), Emmanuel Heringer (bamboo roof)
Contractor: Montu Ram Shaw
Building Footprint: 253 m2
Floor Area: 174 m2 (rooms), 180 m2 (ramp and veranda)
Materials/techniques: fired brick foundation, mud walls (cob technique), bamboo pillars/ceilings and roof structure, straw roof (lower roof), metal sheet roof (upper roof)
Text and Image Courtesy: Studio Anna Heringer
About the Architect
German architect Anna Heringer, born October 1977, grew up in Laufen, a small town at the Austrian- Bavarian border close to Salzburg. At the age of 19, Anna Heringer went to live in Bangladesh for almost a year, learnt Bengali, and got deeply involved in the local culture. She learnt about sustainable development work but also about construction and architecture and the value of using existing, local resources — a strategy that she still advocates many ears later. As an architect and honorary professor of the UNESCO Chair of Earthen Architecture, Building Cultures, and Sustainable Development, she focuses on the use of natural and readily available building materials.
Over the years, Anna Heringer has realised projects in Asia, Africa, and Europe. She has received numerous honours: the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, the AR Emerging Architecture Awards in 2006 and 2008, the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard's GSD, and a RIBA International Fellowship. Her work has been widely published and exhibited at MoMA New York, the V&A Museum in London, and at the Venice Architectural Biennale in 2016 und 2018, among other places.
Anna Heringer lectures worldwide at conferences, including TED in 2017, and has been visiting professor at various universities, including Harvard, ETH Zurich (with Martin Rauch), UP Madrid, TU Munich, and University of Arts in Linz.
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