Bamboo-made school in Bangladesh wins Aga Khan architecture award

Staff Correspondent | Published: 16:59, Aug 29,2019 | Updated: 11:54, Aug 30,2019


Children play on the terrace of Arcadia Education Project school during dry season at South Kanarchar of Keraniganj in Dhaka. This file photo was taken recently. — Press release

An amphibious structure made of bamboo that houses a school for underprivileged children in Bangladesh was adjudged one of the six winners of the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture announced Thursday in the Russian city of Kazan.

The six winners would share the prize money of $1 million among them, said a release of Aga Khan Development Network.

The Arcadia Education Project is anchored on the bank of Dhaleshwari in South Kanarchar of Keraniganj, constructed by Saif Ul Haque Sthapati and run by Maleka Welfare Trust, on a site that remains submerged by three metre of water a third of the year.

The structure expanding on 486 square metres was built using simple materials such as different varieties of bamboo, recycled tires and steel drums and rises with the water level.

‘Site-specific in its technological approach yet global in its solution, this low-cost, low-impact project was the outcome of teamwork between architect, client and builder, each of whom displayed resilience and innovation as they approached the social responsibility of building the school,’ the release quoted jury citation of the project.

The modular structure incorporates space for a preschool, a hostel, a nursery and a vocational training centre.

‘The modesty of the programme, the use of materials and the construction method are all successful parts of building this amphibious school through experimental and collaborative teamwork. Though simple and compact, the project resolves complex issues – of buoyancy, anchoring against the river current and waste management,’ the release added.

The bamboos used in the structure were collected from neighbouring villages, chemically treated and made waterproof by applying liquid made by boiling local Gaab fruits, a traditional Bangladeshi method. 

Most of the joints in the structure use a rope-tie technique rather than steel wire which would corrode.

‘At a time of rising sea levels, this modest bamboo school illustrates how to build an affordable and viable solution with locally available materials,’ the release said about the structure.

The construction of the structure was executed by a team led by Pran Bollov Biswas from December, 2014 to February, 2016. The designers spent exactly two years from December 2012 planning the building at the cost of $50,800.

Another Bangladeshi project — Amber Denim Loom Shed in Gazipur — was earlier shortlisted in the final 20s for the 2019 award.

The other winners of 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture were — Revitalisation of Muharraq of Bahrain, Palestinian Museum in Birzeit, Public Spaces Development Programme in Tatarstan of Russia, Alioune Diop University Teaching and Research Unit in Bambey of Senegal, and Wasit Wetland Centre in Sharjah of United Arab Emirates.

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