Architectural Excellence Addresses the Need and Aspiration of the Locality
Azizul Mohith / CONTEXT
Arcadia Education Project by Architect Saif Ul Haque in South Kanarchor, Bangladesh has received much acclaimed Aga Khan Architecture Award 2019 along with 5 other projects spread around the globe. It is a proud moment for Bangladesh as this the fourth award cycle where a project from Bangladesh has received this award, taking the number of projects to six. Bait-Ur-Rouf Mosque near Dhaka and Friendship Centre in Gaibandha received the award in 2014-2016 cycle. Previously Grameen Bank Housing Programme and National Assembly Building of Bangladesh received Aga Khan Architecture Award in 1987-1989 cycle whereas METI School at Rudrapur, Bangladesh was honored in 2005-2007 cycle. Since 1977 The Aga Khan Award have been rewarded to architectural built projects that successfully address the needs and aspirations of respective context and culture in the fields of contemporary design, social housing, community development and improvement, restoration, reuse and area conservation, as well as landscape architecture and environmental restoration efforts. It is worth to mention, in the 2017-2019 cycle another Bangladeshi project is shortlisted- the Amber Denim Loom Shed by Archground / Jubair Hasan.
The six winning projects of the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA) were awarded on 13 September at a ceremony held at Kazan’s Musa Jalil State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre.
The six projects selected by Master Jury to share the US$ 1 million prize are-
- Revitalisation of Muharraq, Bahrain
- Arcadia Education Project, South Kanarchor, Bangladesh
- Palestinian Museum, Birzeit, Palestine
- Public Spaces Development Programme, Republic of Tatarstan, Russian Federation
- Alioune Diop University Teaching and Research Unit, Bambey, Senegal
- Wasit Wetland Centre, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
The story behind the inception of Arcadia Education Project is probably as appealing as the project itself. It all began when Razia Alam, a Bangladeshi origin teacher from United Kingdom returned to her home country and decided to build a school for underprivileged children. She was ready to spend the savings accumulated from her 40 years of teaching career. For certain considerations like fund restriction and her willingness to establish the school near riverside, she purchased a land close to river in Kanarchor. It turned out that the land remain under three metre of water one third of the year. That is when Architect Saif Ul Haque devised the solution of a structure which would sit on ground and float on water based on the water level. Three multipurpose spaces used mainly as classrooms; office; open-topped platform; toilet/bathroom structure; septic tank and water tank structures; and a single corridor offering access to all spaces are kept anchored with ground in dry season with bamboo posts, while steel drums placed in bamboo frames supposed to help it float when water level rises. The bamboo was collected form localities and treated with liquid extracted form a local fruit. Most of the joints are rope-tied. Bow-arched bamboo roofs allows for free classroom space.
The “Loom Shed”, another shortlisted project from Bangladesh, employed “traditional Bangladeshi residential architecture with contemporary elements that give it a modern twist.” This project is also a recipient of several local and international award.