German architecture practice Studio Anna Heringer has received the international architecture prize OBEL AWARD 2020 for its work on the Anandaloy Building, an unconventional project combining sustainable construction and social development to catalyze local development in rural Bangladesh. Created to follow the practice’s motto that “architecture is a tool to improve lives,” the curved building was built by local villagers using locally sourced mud and bamboo and serves as both a community center for people with disabilities and a small workspace for producing fair textiles. The project’s name Anandaloy means ‘The Place of Deep Joy’ in the local Bengali dialect.

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mud brick and bamboo building with thatched roof

Located in the northern Bangladeshi village of Rudrapur, the multifunctional community center was designed to celebrate diversity and inclusion — concepts that are particularly important for those with disabilities in Bangladesh, where having a disability is sometimes regarded as karmic punishment. The building also helps empower local women and counteract urban-rural migration with the clothes-making project Dipdii Textiles located on the first floor. The project supports local textile traditions with work opportunities.

Related: Architects recycle shipping containers into a breezy Dhaka home

people walking on path near curved building made of mud and bamboo
person walking down open hallway

“What I want to transmit with this building is that there is a lot of beauty in not following the typical standard pattern,” Anna Heringer said. “Anandaloy does not follow a simple rectangular layout. Rather, the building is dancing, and dancing with it is the ramp that follows it around. That ramp is essential, because it is the symbol of inclusion. It is the only ramp in the area, and as the most predominant thing about the building, it triggers a lot of questions. In that way, the architecture itself raises awareness of the importance of including everyone. Diversity is something beautiful and something to celebrate.”

people weaving textiles in large, open room
bamboo benches on outdoor patio

Local villagers of all ages and genders, including people with disabilities, built Anandaloy with a no-formwork mud construction technique called cob. Bamboo purchased from local farmers was also used for the structural components and the facade, which features a Vienna weaving pattern that the workers selected. The building completely runs on solar energy. 

+ Studio Anna Heringer

Photography by Kurt Hoerbst via Studio Anna Heringer