The use of naturally sustainable building elements during construction is a fairly popular trend in architecture at present.
Many architects nowadays mix in naturally sourced materials such as wood, clay, bamboo, etc. with the more traditional building elements such as bricks, metal, and concrete.
The two-storied Anandaloy, located a few kilometres from Dinajpur's Biral upazila, is built with materials such as clay, sand, straw, bamboo, ropes, wood, along with brick, cement, and iron bars.
Its walls are made of a mixture of straw and sand, and to prevent cracks, the walls have been plastered with clay. The straw and sand mixture will keep it dry during the rainy season.
But you might be wondering what the building is for.
Anandaloy is a project of Dipshikha - a voluntary organisation that focuses on non-formal education, training, and research work for rural development.
Situated on the first floor of this eccentric building is a therapy centre for disabled people and the second floor houses a textile studio cum workshop.
The raw materials used to build the building function as a natural humidifier and protect the building against the harsh tropical weather.
This magnificent structure was designed by Anna Heringer - a German architect who has won the prestigious Obel Award this year for Anandaloy.
The award is given by a Denmark-based organization "Henrik Frode Obel Foundation" - an organisation that recognises unique architectural constructions every year.
However, this is not the first time Anna has received an award. In 2007, she received the Aga Khan Award for her eccentric work for Dipshikha project's "Modern Education and Training Institute", which is popularly known as
METI Handmade School.
For Anandaloy, the architect has used palm oil and soap to plaster the floors that also serves as waterproofing.
Though the building is mostly made of natural elements like bamboo and wood, Anna used bricks as the foundation to further strengthen the building.
The ceiling on the first floor is made out of bamboo and the ceiling on the second floor has been made from both bamboo and wood.
The whole structure is layered over by corrugated iron sheets to protect the building from water.
Overall, the building wears a pastoral yet modern look. As there is no plaster, visitors can identify every element used in the making of this edifice.
Using eco-friendly materials is the signature of Anna's work.
Anna derives inspiration for her architectural designs from nature and the traditional clay houses of Dinajpur while using elements that are not prone to decay or rust.
These two magnificent architectural works - Anandaloy and METI Handmade School - invite a lot of tourists to a place where children were once deprived of quality education.
There was a time when children of this locality had to walk four to five kilometres to attend schools in a nearby village until Dipshikha stepped in.
Dipshikha has been working in Bangladesh since independence. Their motto is to ensure a better life for the landless farmers and underprivileged people.
With that motto, Dipshikha introduced METI Handmade School for the students of class one to 10 on September 1, 1999.
They wanted to make education interesting for children. This is why they emphasised extracurricular activities like music, dancing, and teaching English through conversation.
The classrooms are colourful and the walls are curved to reduce the risk of children getting hurt by the corners. Play zones have low height corridors with circular openings - especially designed for younger children.
The school was constructed with the help of "Peace" - a German donor organisation. Another group from the Austria Lease University helped with the project while Anna supervised the work.
After the success of METI, the organisation wanted to focus on working especially for the disabled children of that area.
This time, they collaborated with ILPD and Kaderu Charitable Foundation - a Hongkong-based donor organisation. The goal was to improve the lives of the disabled people of the region.
Anna, who has always extended a helping hand to the organisation, extended her help once again for this project.
This project provides physiotherapy to physically disabled people and offers textile-related workshops to local women.
For this project, Anna used raw materials that will make living in the building comfortable in summer and winter.
The ceilings are V-shaped for improved ventilation. Utmost priority was given to adequate flow of air and light.
The shape may seem like a sea ship at the first glance.
The presence of greenery all around the establishment and a pond in the southern end provides for a calm and soothing environment.
The floors were designed in a way to facilitate easy and accessible wheelchair movement.
The entire building is powered by solar energy.
The striking aspect about this building is that the architect did not use any chemical in the process.
Instead, she made sure to specially treat the raw materials to maximize the longevity of the building.
It cost Tk73 lakh to construct the building. The finance was provided by ILPD.
The centre was inaugurated on November 14, 2019.
Rumana Zahan, who is a trainer in Jela Somobai Karjaloy, Dinajpur, said that some people identify the building as "thatched two-storied houses" and some simply call it "bamboo house", but above all, the fact that the design
has received worldwide acclamation pleases her the most.
The place is adored by adults and children alike.
Five-year-old Jisa, who was visiting the premise with her parents, said she is in love with the establishment.
Abdul Mostak, who came with his family to see the place, said, "I heard a lot about this place but I'm visiting it for the first time. It's really impressive."
Serajul Islam, the chairman of the union, praised the establishment, saying, "People had to travel to either Dinajpur City or Dhaka for good physiotherapy sessions, but now they can receive good treatment here."
He also said that the schools here now have a certain standard. "The workshop is providing vocational training to women, which will contribute to narrow the unemployment gap. This is commendable," he added.
Jagadish Chandra Rai, the executive director of Dipshikha, Anna has always been a friend to them and he thinks this place will help to rehabilitate the disabled people and contribute to the overall development of the country.
Talking about the establishment, Jagadish said, "Our engineers and labours received training while working on these projects. Hopefully, they will come up with similar ideas of their own in the future."
Anna Heringer is a German architect. She designed the Meti school and Community therapy centre forDipshikha- a voluntary organisation in Bangladesh. In 2007 she won the prestigious Aga khan award for Meti School design. This year she won the Obel award for her outstanding design of Anandaloy.