As an architect and honorary professor of the UNESCO Chair of Earthen Architecture, Building Cultures, and Sustainable Development Anna Heringer focuses on the use of natural building materials. Through her projects, Heringer has sought to give local craftsmen and communities confidence in their use of traditional building methods, preparing them for the future. She also strives to maintain ecological balance, avoiding the detrimental effects of modern architectural methods.
Heringer first gained recognition for her design of a primary school for the Modern Education and Training Institute (METI), an NGO operating in the impoverished northern village of Rudrapur, Bangladash. The METI Handmade School was built using human labor alone, demonstrating that large, highly functional, well-designed structures can be built “simply,” using traditional materials. Seeing their beautiful craftsmanship incorporated into a well-built two-story structure, local residents were filled with immense pride. The school soon became a catalyst for further development in the community.
DESI, a vocational school for electricians, is of interest not only because it is powered by solar energy but as it is the first mud-built structure in Bangladesh to have indoor plumbing. An extension of the METI project, it called on the services of local students and craftsmen in the hope that the skills they learned would be reapplied in the region. While local materials, mainly mud and bamboo, were used, structural stability and viability were improved with a masonry foundation and damp-proofing. No machinery was used in the construction apart from utilizing cows for mixing the earth, water, and rice straw.
More recently, Anna and her team worked on the prototype for the “Birth Room.” Hospitals are usually made with ultra-hygienic, cold, shiny, and non-tactile materials. In addition, while there are established spaces for most physical and medical practices, we do not have specific spaces for giving birth. The space, designed in collaboration with Ana Duer, Martin Rauch, and Sabrina Summer, is a prototype for a different kind of space made of earth.
In 2022, The Essential Beauty exhibition of Anna Heringer’s work opened at Madrid’s Museo ICO.