1. FINALIST: Anandaloy

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Anandaloy means ‘The Place of Deep Joy” in the local dialect of Bangla/Bengali.

The Anandaloy Building hosts a center for people with disabilities combined with a textile workshop.

Often people with disabilities are seen as a kind of punishment and challenge from God or bad Karma from a former life. Because of this, pwd’s are most often hidden rather than included. Besides this, poverty forces every grown-up member in the family to work and mostly people with disabilities are left on their own during the day. Places for therapy are rare in the country and not existing at all in that area of Rudrapur.

In the beginning, the building was planned as a therapy center only, but we were able to extend the building by another story, hosting a workshop for the mainly female tailors in the village.

The concept was not only to provide therapeutic treatment for the people with disabilities, but also provide them an opportunity to learn and work in that building and engage in the community there. Everybody wants to be needed.

As a visible sign of this inclusion a big ramp winds up the first floor. It is the only ramp in that larger area. Already during the construction it was  a keen topic of discussions amongst the many local visitors that came to see the construction site. What is the reason for that ramp? Why is it important to guarantee access to everyone, no matter if healthy or not? How can the lives of people with disabilities be improved? How can inclusion be incorporated?

The building’s architecture explores the plastic abilities of mud in order to create a stronger identity. Mud is regarded as poor material and inferior to brick for example. To show the beauty and capacity of mud, it is needed to bring out the best of it and not just to treat it as a cheaper version to brick.

With a particular mud technique, called cob, no formwork is needed and curves are just as easy to be done as straight walls. Unlike the other mud buildings erected in a rectangular layout in that area, the Anandaloy Building breaks out of the mold.

It dances in curves, a ramp winds playfully around its inner structure. On a symbolic level the building signals: it is great that we human beings are all different. With it’s joyful curves it radiates the message: diversity is wonderful!

Unlike the other projects in the same village that all were under the supervision of Studio Anna Heringer, the Anandaloy construction site was managed by the local contractor, Montu Ram Shaw, and the team of mud and bamboo workers from the village, including two persons with disabilities.

Architecture is a tool to improve lives. The vision behind, and motivation for my work is to explore and use architecture as a medium to strengthen cultural and individual confidence, to support local economies and to foster the ecological balance. Joyful living is a creative and active process and I am deeply interested in the sustainable development of our society and our built environment. For me, sustainability is a synonym for beauty: a building that is harmonious in its design, structure, technique and use of materials, as well as with the location, the environment, the user, the socio-cultural context. This, for me, is what defines its sustainable and aesthetic value.