As Ideal as It Gets: Volunteer-built Handmade School in Bangladesh for "Learning With Joy"
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Architect Anna Heringer turned materials like mud, straw, and bamboo into something the Jury of The Aga Khan Award for Architecture called “… beautiful, meaningful and humane…”  when she designed and built METI school in Rudrupur, Bangladesh with the help of dozens of volunteers.

The Jury’s comments also tell us how: “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.”

And in fact, this holistic approach drove the project’s conception it seems: the local NGO wanted to” strengthen regional identity and self confidence” as part of its plan of development, and believes that architecture is intimately connected to that.

Hand Made School

Creating a beautiful, innovative and multifunctional space with only local resources and labor not only makes the project more sustainable, it also gives everyone in the community something to really be proud of. Which makes me wonder what it would be like to have such a positive psychological bond with the buildings around me?

Another smart aspect to their method is that this spirit of confidence and creative capability was intentionally designed into construction because it’s what the project planners intended for the atmosphere and function of the school, for the children who are learning in it. Doesn’t that make so much sense?

Let me spell it out a different way, just to make sure I myself understand what I’m saying: This is an example of choosing to design in, through materials and building methods and labor, the spiritual/psychological qualities that the building should express/represent as part of its environment, and that it should, for optimal functioning, inspire in those who use it.

Sustainability lends itself so well to this infusion of positivity in the practical, resourceful and creative steps it demands towards greater efficiency. All these things feel good and become evident in the overall aesthetic. And that subtle, “humane” (to borrow again from the Aga Khan jury)  addition to the character of the structures we have around us might actually make a profound impact on how we feel in and around these structures.

True, in this situation, these are most likely choices they had to make anyway because of budget constraints. But how might the same concepts apply in the design of new architecture in developed countries? Can we stop caring about demonstrating institutional power, prestige, luxury and wealth, indulgent technological prowess, the personal creative expression of a celebrity architect, etc. etc. in favor of soundly made, attractive buildings that feel human and good and work well? These are just questions this project raises for me. See more pics and learn about the architect and other projects. 

Further description of the school itself.