In 2002 architecture student Anna Heringer and several of her classmates at Kunstuniversität Linz conducted a comprehensive analysis of the civic and economic structure of the Bangladeshi village of Rudrapur. They identified a lack of educational opportunities for villagers, and Heringer designed the Handmade School, her master’s thesis, in response. In 2004 she approached the local nongovernmental organizations that were already operating a school in the village, and they adopted her design as a framework for expansion. After a year of planning and fundraising they broke ground on the project in 2005 under the guidance of Heringer and Berlin architect Eike Roswag, who assumed the job of construction manager.
The structure is made primarily of earth, a traditional building material in the region, to which Heringer added local clay, sand, and straw for increased durability. A number of improvements upon local building traditions were introduced, such as a brick foundation to strengthen the structure and a plastic moisture barrier between the foundation and the walls. Resident unskilled laborers were trained in the building technique and performed almost all of the construction. In the completed school, thick earthen walls enclose three ground-floor classrooms and a system of play caves for students; the second story has an earthen floor and walls of light and airy bamboo latticework. Local fabrics add bright color throughout. With its innovative approach to traditional methods and materials, Handmade School has stimulated interest in architecture and set new regional standards for building.