August 23, 2012
When one comes across the words Bangladesh and architecture, the image of monumental Louis Kahn’s building in Dacca immediately comes to mind. This little school by Anna Heringer of Austria and Eike Roswag of Germany which received the Aga Khan Award of Architecture in 2007 may not be able to reach such heights of poetic monumentality but may be able to impart a much richer legacy for the well-being of millions. The school was considered a model for future development of high design quality achieved with traditional local materials like bamboo, mud and even fabrics for Saris with the involvement of the community.
These words from the Jury of The Aga Khan Award for Architecture are worth quoting.
“This joyous and elegant two-storey primary school in rural Bangladesh
has emerged from a deep understanding of local materials and a
heart-felt connection to the local community. Its innovation lies in
the adaptation of traditional methods and materials of construction to
create light-filled celebratory spaces as well as informal spaces for
children. Earthbound materials such as loam and straw are combined
with lighter elements like bamboo sticks and nylon lashing to shape a
built form that addresses sustainability in construction in an
exemplary manner. The design solution may not be replicable in other
parts of the Islamic world, as local conditions vary, but the approach
– which allows new design solutions to emerge from an in-depth
knowledge of the local context and ways of building – clearly provides
a fresh and hopeful model for sustainable building globally. The final
result of this heroic volunteer effort is a building that creates
beautiful, meaningful and humane collective spaces for learning, so
enriching the lives of the children it serves.”
The architects describe the two- storey structure as being ‘hand-made by local craftsmen, pupils and teachers together with a European team of Architects, craftsmen and students.’
The ground floor is made of thick mud walls, with organically shaped cave-like spaces to the rear of each of three classrooms, while the upper floor is a porous, latticed space in bamboo.
The aim of the school project was to improve existing building techniques, maintaining sustainability by utilising local potential and strengthening regional identity. The architects note: ‘We are convinced that architecture means more than just satisfying a need for shelter, For us architecture and building is closely linked with the creation of identity and self-confidence. This is the basis for sustainable and forward-looking development.’
An excellent link from MoMa for this project
The contents and photos are attributed to AD of November/December 2007,with the title “Made in India”
The picturesque Cotswold can hardly fail to remind most of us of picture postcards, chocolate boxes and soft schmaltzy classical music but it would be tragic to ignore the vernacular and even worse to turn up the nose at genuine attempt to build modern buildings in these delightful environments.
It may be worth saying a word or two about this generous architect/teacher and now also a Royal Gold Medal winner for 2008, who has influenced hundreds of young architects to carry on the best traditions of a very special ‘romantic pragmatist’ branch of expressionist modern architecture in this country for last half of the 20th century. Calling him ‘collective architectural Dad’ to me is an apt description.
Kenneth Frampton said that Ted produced “.. an architecture of Resistance” and that in his work ” .. both landscape and materiality work together to secure the uniqueness of any prevalent and continuing sense of place”
In my humble view this early project from his office encapsulates the gist of the quotation above.
These plans are attributable to Architectural Design, February 1968. It is hoped that the younger architecture enthusiasts could observe that the humble approach to create this subtle and sensitive environment does not use any ‘tight rope tricks’ and yet produces an ageless building which can not fail to enrich all the senses of viewers and users for a long long time to come.
The three buildings in dark lines were the existing structures. The main house was converted to a common room, dining room, kitchen and offices; a malt house is now a library; and the barn now houses the conference rooms.
The cross section (left to right) Roof forming cloister round the courtyard; Section through the new main residential block, cloister run next to the boundary wall at the back; Cross section through barn and conference room.
Top left. The old malt house now a library opposite, the old house now connected to the new long housing wing.Bottom right. The footpath passes between the conference rooms on right and new bedrooms on left and leads to the staff houses at the far end of the site. Note the use of insitu concrete and concrete blocks with simple stained timber and stone walls and roofs.The new residential wing turns at right angles and reaches the river, enclosing the communal space and separating the staff quarters. The end elevation of this new bedroom block helps to define the river’s edge.
Top left. Conference centre with cloister link with residential block; Bottom right. As you leave the village, all you see is the back of the old house and the stone boundary wall forming cloisters behind the residential block. This was my second visit to see the building after about 30 years and I almost missed the building because it was so well merged in its surroundings.