AR Awards: Handmade School
Architectural colonialism used to be the norm, where "Traditional materials and techniques are abandoned in favour of the import of expensive and sometimes energy-inefficient materials and products, benefiting only manufacturers in more advanced economies." This school in Bangladesh uses local materials like brick, loam, straw, bamboo and rope, with a few steel pins thrown in. "this joyful project shows that new and refreshing local identity can be achieved by exploiting the immediate and the readily available – ironically via architects from Europe."
From Paul Finch of AR:
This school is built using brick, loam, straw, bamboo and rope, plus some steel pins. Refining the local technique of using very wet loam to build walls, the school has a brick foundation, a damp proof course, and walls made of a mixture of loam and straw, the latter acting as a form of reinforcement. The loam and straw are combined by getting cows and water buffalo to tread them in. The 'Wellerbau' technique employed here involves building a 700mm high wall layer, leaving it to dry for two days, and trimming off with a spade. A further drying period is followed by the addition of the next layer.
The ceiling and first floor are constructed using bamboo as the chief material. Three layers of bamboo sticks, bamboo boards and an earth filling make the surface of the floor. The upper walls and roof comprise a frame construction using four layers of joined bamboo sticks, and vertical and diagonal poles; steel pins are fixed with nylon lashing from the junction of the sticks (a modified form of traditional local lashing was used).
The inventive architecture, allied to traditional materials, has attracted thousands of visitors to the building, which is clement, spacious and colourful. The architects [ Anna Heringer, Eike Roswag,Berlin] sums it up thus: 'Comfort, durability and style as teaser – sustainability as concept'. It is the only two-storey building in the neighbourhood, and the architects hope that the principles that inform the school design may be replicated in relation to housing development, escaping the apparent tyranny of the earth hut. The judges felt this project more than lived up to its aims and ambitions, and that the thorough analysis which underlies the design has been matched by the quality of architecture achieved.