Handmade mud school in Bangladesh

Hugh sez, "This school in Bangladesh has tunnels for reading and playing and sunny, colorful porches. They can be built by hand by the people of the village (including the kids who will attend). The young designer, Anna Heringer, is a finalist for the Curry Stone Design Prize, given to individuals or groups for design solutions that addresses social justice."

Handmade Building (Thanks, Hugh!)

(Image: Kurt Hörbst)


  1. ” …Heringer made traditional mud homes more durable through improved building techniques, including damp proofing and a hardy foundation earth…”

    One westerner can come down and that swiftly improve on a millennia old technology? Not sure I buy that. There might be a very good reason why the locals haven’t adopted a certain idea that seems to be within their means.
    They might have already tried it and discontinued it as it didn’t work in the long run etc. Human ingenuity doesn’t stop at the EU borders.
    I generally salute her projects, but that one sentence was somewhat jarring.

  2. @starfish and coffee

    Human ingenuity doesn’t stop at the EU borders.

    Ethnocentrism in general and eurocentrism in particular really are like blinders we don’t know we are wearing, no doubt, and we should try avoid it.

    That being said, one of the problems with tradition is that by its very nature it discourages innovation. Everywhere.

    This is the statement from another (Islamic, if that matters) groups evaluation of this project.

    “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.”
    (Jury of The Aga Khan Award for Architecture 10th Circle)

  3. They can be built by hand by the people of the village (including the kids who will attend)

    I’m amazed that the kids can also be made by hand.

  4. I like this design. A nice non-facetious blend of the traditional and the New Modernist that seems responsive to the economics of its community. I’ve always been a fan of earthen construction, but it’s never been as viable a technology in the west because of the reverse economics of labor/materials compared to the developing world. A building like this in the US southwest -where most ‘green’ architecture is built here- can cost a whopping $300 a square foot. This is why ‘green’ housing is so commonly limited to luxury housing.

    One is wise to be skeptical of claims of ‘improving’ on traditional building technology by outsiders, but -thanks largely to the Soft/Green Tech movement’s influence- there have actually been practical improvements, usually through improvement of materials consistency and performance. Take, for instance, the Cinva Ram which vastly improved the physical performance of the conventional mud brick while greatly reducing its labor overhead. The architecture at the southern-Indian religious community Auroville (which also manufactures the most advanced yet still human-powered cinva ram) is an impressive example of where western technology blending with traditional technologies has produced good results. (see http://www.earth-auroville.com/) They’ve done 10 meter span arched roofs in earth block! They also have been pioneers in renewable energy and have the world’s largest solar powered steam-cooking system in one of their community kitchens. One of so many places I wish I could visit…

    For us here, though, the future of the conventional American home promises a steady evolution to it’s logical conclusion of high-tech papier mache where everything perpetually stinks like old ceiling tiles and Air Wick. People laughed at the Monsanto plastic house of the future at Disneyland, but really, all they got wrong was the style… (plastic is, after all, the most efficient way to use the whole of a tree and once you’re farming lumber on a 5 year cycle, what else are you going to make with it?) I still hold out hope, though, for the Makers and eco-tinkerers pulling an end-run to plug-in architecture and user-adaptive digitally-aware building systems, realizing the dream of Constance Nieuwenhuys and ending the madness of real estate.

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