Anna Heringer (born October 1977) is the principal architect and founder of the firm Studio Anna Heringer based in Germany. Recognized for her use of humble materials like mud and bamboo, she believes that the most suitable strategy for sustainable development is to utilize local resources and not be dependent on external factors. Her philosophy is to use architecture as a tool to improve lives; a medium to strengthen cultural and independent confidence, to support local economies, and to foster the ecological balance. She was awarded the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2007.
Here’s a list of 10 projects that best explain her philosophy.
1. METI School – Dinajpur, Bangladesh
80% of the population of Bangladesh lives in rural areas. To deal with poverty and the lack of facilities that drive villagers to migrate from rural areas to cities, Anna realized that it was essential to utilize local skills and materials such as earth and bamboo. This would instil self-confidence in the children and the local population and would strengthen their sense of identity. The project’s main strategy was to develop skills and knowledge within the local population, and indeed 25 local tradesmen were trained during the course, further creating job opportunities.
2. Bamboo Hostels – Baoxi, China
The project includes three hostels, the dragon, the nightingale, and the peacock, and aims to create humane structures using natural building materials such as bamboo The consumption of concrete in China is massive, and Anna illustrates how abundant local materials like bamboo can be utilized as an alternative material for reducing environmental impact and CO2 emissions. The structures are strongly rooted in their context as the main reason for the characteristic shapes of the three buildings is the rich tradition and heritage of Baoxi – particularly basket weaving and ceramic vases.
3. DESI Training Center – Rudrapur, Bangladesh
DESI (Dipshikha Electrical Skill Improvement) is a vocational school for electrical training, housing classrooms, and offices. A new interpretation of the traditional Bangladeshi homestead, it incorporates structures for separate household functions built around a central courtyard. The center is a model for an improved living standard for the middle-class teachers and maintains the traditional level of sustainability. Basic building methods and passive cooling systems are combined with modern energy systems and solar panels, thus creating a perfect blend of modernity and tradition.
4. Anandalaya: Centre for People with disabilities + Dipdii Textiles workshop
The Anandalok Building is a center for people with disabilities combined with a textile workshop. Earlier planned exclusively as a therapy center, it was later extended into another story, hosting workshops for the female tailors of the village. The goal was to provide disabled people with not only therapeutic treatment but also opportunities to work and engage with the community. The building defies the traditional rectangular layout and instead dances in curves, thus symbolizing the importance of diversity.
5. Kindergarten – Zimbabwe
Designed for the permaculture community PORET in Zimbabwe, the project aims to be gentle to its surroundings – the soil, the water, the atmosphere, and the people. The timber structure has enough depths to form niches for diverse activities and hosts colorful windows with solid frames for the kids. Due to the presence of termites and ants, the structure would inevitably go back to the earth, in the form of compost. Anna considers this as something positive and uses it to throw light on the importance of combining the building process with the training of local craftsmen.
6. Majiayao Ceramics Museum – China
Influenced by the caves engraved in mountains, the design of the museum is divided into three parts, housing the ancient ceramics, contemporary ceramics, and an inner courtyard. Earth is chosen as the prime construction material, illustrating the relationship between the fired ceramics and the unfired clay walls. The material choice is also a reference to the time when pottery was protected within the earthen bed.
The museum signifies the need for green buildings in China, and the firm hopes that the project will be the first step towards it.
7. Training Centre for Sustainability, Morocco
Similar to other projects by the firm, the Training Center in Morocco aims to use locally available natural resources to benefit the local population and create architecture with a strong sense of identity. Owing to the unemployment and low literacy rate in Morocco, the purpose of the building is to create a teaching center for sustainable construction.
A predominantly earth construction, the structure aims to use simple building techniques adopted from the traditional know-how. The design of the project also aims to celebrate the unique culture and social values of Morocco.
8. HOMEmade – Family houses in Bangladesh
Three family houses were constructed in a remote village in Bangladesh as a result of a hands-on workshop for students and young architects. The project aimed to work together with the local people and create a model for a sustainable, modern architecture deeply rooted in the cultural and social context of the village. Local craftsmen were trained in the modern mud and bamboo techniques, and it was expected that they would use the skills to build other modern mud homes in the region.
9. Omicron living rooms
The project aimed to create an atmospheric space for the employees of Omicron, and at the same time to make a social-economic impact by involving the local craftsmanship and the development organization from the global South. The project incorporates 3 sculptures that create comfortable and poetic atmospheres to retreat, contemplate, meditate, and brainstorm.
10. K.K Modi University Campus
K. Modi University Campus is the part of the new university in Durg, Chhattisgarh. The project includes living spaces for students and teachers and is constructed entirely out of local mud. A traditional building technique called “Zabur” is used, which includes shaping wet mud with hands without formwork.