METI Handmade School in Rudrapur Village

Located in Rudrapur village in northern Bangladesh, the METI Handmade School stands as a superb example of what can be achieved when a community works together toward a common goal. The primary school can accommodate 168 students and was built with traditional materials such as bamboo and mud, primarily by local craftsmen, with the help of teachers and students. Recognized for its environmental value, simple beauty, and the level of cooperation between architects, craftsmen, clients and users during the project, the METI Handmade School received the 2007 Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

The concept of the school was devised by Anna Heringer of Bavaria in 1997 when she was working as a volunteer with Dipshikha, a Bangladeshi NGO assisting communities with education and skills development. While studying architecture in her home country, Heringer returned to Rudrapur with three fellow students where, as part of their university research, they put together a proposal for building a school under the METI (Modern Education and Training) program run by Dipshikha – a charitable organization devoted to improving the socio-economic conditions in communities.

After graduating from university in 2004, Heringer returned to the village where she was appointed as architect for building new classrooms from local materials for the village school. She coordinated fund-raising with Shanti, a German NGO which had originally introduced Heringer to Dipshikha, and was successful in raising the funds for the project. Heringer and Paul Cherwatiga of Dipshikha persuaded authorities to allow them to use traditional local materials in place of the usual concrete used to construct school buildings.

The foundation was made of bricks made by local craftsmen, with the structure made of bamboo and mud to specifications designed by Anna Heringer and her colleague Eike Roswag. The improved methods allowed for a second storey to be added to the building, so in addition to the classrooms, there are spaces for recreation. Classrooms have slatted bamboo walls for natural ventilation and diffused light, being practical while at the same time looking very attractive and blending with the natural surroundings. The effectiveness of local materials was enhanced by a dampproof membrane and brick foundation, and the addition of straw to strengthen the mud mixture.

The 2007 Aga Khan Award made special mention of the fact that easily available local materials had been used in constructing the school in a way that is beautiful, simple and humane. In 2009, Anna Heringer received the Curry Stone Design Prize for the METI Handmade School in Rudrapur, with commendation for a handmade approach to sustainable building, using local materials and local laborers who had the opportunity to learn new construction methods. No doubt the children and teachers in Rudrapur appreciate the community effort that went into building the METI Handmade School.