Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement

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METI - Handmade School

Anna Heringer. METI - Handmade School

GLENN LOWRY: Anna Heringer designed the METI school in Rudrapur, a remote village in Bangladesh.

ANNA HERINGER: The intention of the project is that the budget really remains with the local people and not goes into any external market, into the cement industry, for example. We used the raw earth as building material. We didn’t add any cement only straw. And the straw in it has the advantage that it gives the walls more stability. It's a traditional technique.

GLENN LOWRY: This building material, called cob, was mixed by water buffaloes and cows, who walked in circles to tamp down the earth. From there, local workers layered the cob into three-foot high blocks to build the first floor of the building.

ANNA HERINGER: And on the top floor, it's a very light bamboo structure. Light comes in through some small bamboo sticks and makes a very graphical pattern on the floor and then again on the roof, you have very colorful saris.

We wanted to give a new job opportunity because earth structures and also bamboo is very labor-intensive work. And people who were involved were the day laborers who were also parents of the school kids, many of them. Then the kids themselves were involved in the afternoon. And the building process itself was a training for the local workers. And in the end, they got a certificate and they were really proud of that certificate. It was the first one they ever got in their life. I mean they never went to school before.

Earth and bamboo, they have a very bad image there. It's the material of the poor. And suddenly, they see that it's just not true. It's not the money that makes the architecture but the care and also the love for project and for the materials to bring out the best of them. And before nobody knew the village and now it’s really famous. And there are really crowds coming still to see the school.