The second winner of the OBEL AWARD is the project “Anandaloy”, Bangladesh 2017-2020, by Studio Anna Heringer.

According to the jury, the unconventional building, which is made out of mud and bamboo, shows in its own playful and humble way that architecture can contribute to mending the climate as well as social injustice and segregation.

“You can feel that she has a real respect for the culture, for the people, for the land.”

Martha Schwartz, Chair of the Jury, says: “To all of us in the jury, Anandaloy is an outstanding project. It is an original piece. It is not in the style of; it is not imitating something else. I think Anna is absolutely dedicated to what she is doing, which is what you see when you see a good piece of art: that there is a good, focused intent behind it. Anna manages to integrate all of her values: she is building sustainably, using the materials that are there, having people involved, so that they can learn to build for themselves, and creating more opportunities forwomen and for people with disabilities. You can feel that she has a real respect for the culture, for the people, for the land.“

The project

Surrounded by lush green paddy fields in northern Bangladesh stands a curving building in two storeys built out of mud and bamboo. The mud walls curve and dance, and a big ramp winds up to the first floor. Below the ramp are caves that provide either a fun place to move around or a quiet space if you a need for a moment to feel protected and embraced.

The building is called Anandaloy, which means Place of Deep Joy in the local dialect of Bangla/Bengali.

German architect Anna Heringer is behind the unconventional, multifunctional building that hosts a therapy centre for people with disabilities on the ground floor and a textile studio on the top floor producing fair fashion and art.

Motivation of the jury

The Anandaloy building is not only a spatial solution to a number of both basic and specific human needs, the project as a whole is a multi-layered response to the challenge of mending by cleverly interweaving sustainable, social, and architectural design. As Anna Heringer herself describes the role of her profession: „Architecture is a tool to improve lives.“ Anandaloy, which means Place of Deep Joy, hosts a therapy centre for people with disabilities (pwd) on the ground floor, combined with a fair-trade textile manufacturing workshop for local women on the first floor. Architecturally, the building explores the plastic abilities of bamboo and rammed earth in order to create a stronger identity and thereby to celebrate nonconformity and diversity. Rather than being straight-lined, the building dances in curves, a ramp winding playfully around its inner structure. Constructed from only local materials and with the know-how of local craftsmanship, the Anandaloy project respects the local culture and tradition, and from a very simple design and subtle approach still manages to integrate a diverse range of both human needs and programmatic abilities without damage to the environment. Like science, politics and economics, architecture too is asked to take responsibility for the environment and to avoid further damage to our planet. The Anandaloy project affirms that taking on this obligation can be done both responsively and responsibly. We believe that the Anandaloy project constitutes a seminal contribution to the field of architecture.

Anna Heringer

German architect Anna Heringer, born October 1977, grew up in Laufen, a small town at the Austrian-Bavarian border close to Salzburg. At the age of 19, Anna Heringer went to live in Bangladesh for almost a year, learnt Bengali, and got deeply involved in the local culture. She learnt about sustainable development work but also about construction and architecture and the value of using existing, local resources — a strategy that she still advocates many ears later. As an architect and honorary professor of the UNESCO Chair of Earthen Architecture, Building Cultures, and Sustainable Development, she focuses on the use of natural and readily available building materials. Over the years, Anna Heringer has realised projects in Asia, Africa, and Europe. She has received numerous honours: the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, the AR Emerging Architecture Awards in 2006 and 2008, the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard’s GSD, and a RIBA International Fellowship. Her work has been widely published and exhibited at MoMA New York, the V&A Museum in London, and at the Venice Architectural Biennale in 2016 und 2018, among other places. Anna Heringer lectures worldwide at conferences, including TED in 2017, and has been visiting professor at various universities, including Harvard, ETH Zurich (with Martin Rauch), UP Madrid, TU Munich, and University of Arts in Linz.

Watch: presentation videos about the Anandaloy project in Bangladesh.