Architect Anna Heringer came to ‘Discourse’ last year after an invitation from Architect Nurur Rahman Khan, it was held in the Open Studio of the University of Asia Pacific. She gave a lecture on her then recently finished METI School (Handmade School) project in Rudrapur, Dinajpur, Bangladesh. She also presented some other projects built with mud and wood. Architect Prof. Shamsul Wares gave a conclusive speech after her presentation, praising her courage and approach to this design and criticizing few phenomenal and contextual issues. It was really a great ‘Discourse’ session that day.
German Architect Anna Heringer and Austrian Architect Eike Roswag in association with a lot of villagers and local craftsmen built this project together with the Bangladeshi NGO for sustainable rural development ‘Dipshikha’ (দিপশিখা). This project is one of the 9 winners of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2007.
The project includes the building of a school as a representative public building, the building of two-storey houses as a model for rural living as well as the design of the outside areas. The ultimate goal was to gain and disseminate knowledge and information for optimizing the use of locally available resources. The improvement of the building techniques is as important as the economic aspects and the creation of a regional identity. In order to create jobs and to build up a capacity for producing sustainable architecture it is essential to include local workers in the building process. Training through “learning by doing” helped the local craftsmen improve the standards and condition of the rural housing in general.
Photos of Construction
While many aspects of the school have already been discussed and analyzed to bits and applauded in most cases, there may still be a few questions one might ask the designer about her work. For instance, the buildings in the complex have all used two different methods of heat control and ventilation, passive cooling through thermal mass at ground level and heat transfer by means of airflow in upper level. These two systems have never been used in combination in North Bengal before this project. Thermal mass by itself is common in that area and earth walls like the ones used in the school have been known to perform well; but the bamboo made air flow dependent upper floors may come under questions. If anyone of these is perfect then is the other method wrong? Or both are perfect? Now only the real scenario can say the answer. This may be an experimental approach of heat control by the architects. If it is successful in real life then this project may become a real example for future.
In climatic considerations the orientation of the building goes very wrong. The building is elongated in north-south direction. That means it gets more outer surface in west and east side. It is always discouraged in tropical monsoon climate of this region. It gains extreme heat from west during long summer and monsoon.
Hi this is Anna, thanks for that article on our school project! I'm happy that it is discussed so well. As you mentioned some questions "one might ask the designer about her work" I thought I should reply: About the orientation of the building: In general I agree that the North-South orientation has disadvantages. But I consulted an energy expert (Oskar Pankratz) who simulated the building in its thermal performance - the orientation in that case made not a major difference. So, my decision was: I will take that disadvantage of that in order to get natural sunlight in the rooms. This is a school building that really requires light inside of the rooms. That was more crucial then the temperature. If you have visited Rudrapur you will see that this orientation actually makes the poetic atmosphere of the spaces. The thick walls shed a big part of the direct light only some rays are coming in. But these are necessary for the natural lightening of the classrooms. You`ll find those sunrays floating in the classroom filtered through the coloured saris and in the afternoon you`ll have the caves light up in warm red. In addition to that I planned a green facade, a vertical garden at the west side of the school. This garden should shade the walls. Still it is in the growing process but once it is green it will reduce the inside temperature. Moreover the mud has - like no other material - the ability to balance humidity. In comparison to bricks it can absorb it 30 times more, concrete is even worse than bricks. This fact makes quite a difference on how we FEEL temperature. About the first floor: That could be better. It is ok when the windows are open and the wind is floating through the classroom. But what we improved in the new buildings is an insolation with 5-10 cm earth as thermal mass (buffer) and a 25-30 cm thick insolation of coconut fiber. So far... all I want to say that there are no black and white rules on this world, there is always a pro and contra. It is very important to understand the principals of building with climate to find the appropriate solution for each specific project. So keep on discussing and trying 1:1, that is the best way of learning. I am very happy that BRAC team (Adrita, Gazi, Imrul, Omar, Tanmay, Tumpa, Shoeb, Shuva and of course Kabir) joint in Rudrapur II. That was great time that I’m missing and I hope that we’ll keep on our good teamwork in future!
Hi. You might want to get your facts checked out! For your information, no students or teacher of BRAC were involved in the making of the METI school project in Rudrapur.Our faculty and volunteers worked on the DESI project and other later projects in the same village well after the METI school was finished and even received the award from the AGA Khan Foundation and as my friend NEO mentioned a follow-up article on that will be published here soon.
I was a coeditor of this article. Sorry that it was disappointing to you There's a good news, very soon an article from one of the participant in this program from BRAC University is going to be published in ArchSociety which will be edited by Ishraq Zahra Khan (Diya) one of your senior alumni who was also a coeditor of this article as well. So not to worry BRAC rocks!