The Aga Khan Award for Architecture recognizes distinguished architecture that encourages social development, restoration, re-use and environmental responsibility in the Islamic world. One of the winning projects, the METI School of Rudrapur in Bangladesh, is a great example of these values. The school is an amazing hand-built project that showcases great sustainable design practices and locally-sensitive architecture. Elegantly fusing local knowledge, readily available renewable materials and new construction techniques, the project maintains a traditional identity while embracing modernity in both its form and purpose.
Volunteer architects Anna Heringer and Eike Roswag developed the design concept by considering local cultural, economic and ecological aspects. The school is based on regional construction and local materials but implemented with modifications that add efficiency and structural integrity, important factors in the densely populated, flood prone region.
To allow for a second story, the designers improved the bamboo structural system and lashing. They also opted for a brick foundation with a damp proof course to overcome the inevitable rising moisture in the earthen walls. The kiln brick detail enlisted craftspeople from a district 20 kilometers away. The rest of the construction was a collaborative effort between the architects, local craftspeople, students, parents and teachers.
The school building embodies many of the guiding principles behind METI (Modern Education and Training Institute) teaching, an initiative of the Bangladeshi sustainable development NGO Dipshikha. Learning with joy, team-based education, and utilization of nature are all elements of this Montessori-like school.
This hands-on connection was central to the architects’ vision. They wanted technical improvements to become part of local knowledge for application in future development. Locally available expertise, skills and materials are all a part of the school’s sustainability goals as an environmentally sound, structurally superior catalyst for the local economy and education system.
At the center of the project are the students themselves, many who helped form the thick walls that keep their classrooms cool and hung the shutters that allow natural daylight and ventilation. Under the shaded garden façade where colorful sari material contrasts the school’s earth tone walls, the students of the METI School leave their shoes along an expansive veranda and enter the handmade structure built to bring out the best in them. It is with intent that the principles guiding their education take form in the building that surrounds them. The structure, like the program within, serves as a wonderful example for a sustainable future.
The METI School in Rudrapur is a recipient of a 2007 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. The project has also been recognized by the 2007 International Bamboo Building Design Competition as a Visionary Design for Ecological Living, received a 2006 AR Award for Emerging Architecture and the 2006-07 Kenneth F. Brown Asia Pacific Culture and Architecture Design Awards.
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