Pani Community Centre

FOR PEOPLE BY PEOPLE

This building in the north of Bangladesh serves as a community center. The architectural starting point was to realize a building using materials and skills from within a 25 km radius from the site. The drive was to encourage locals to become aware on the basic principles of sustainability. The floor plan is east-west oriented and consists of two volumes under a large bamboo roof structure. On the south side we find the classrooms and lavatories and on the north side the workshop and store. Two sight lines traverse the building in all four directions. This composition of volumes housed under one big U-shaped roof creates interspaces that are open for public use. There is no architectural loss! On the ground floor there is a covered plaza. At first level, on top of the workshop, there is a freely accessible assembly floor. This space is connected by a footbridge coming from the classrooms. The lifting of the roof high above the volumes has achieved a considerable reduction of heat build up within the spaces. Further cooling is provided by cross ventilation, surrounding vegetation and the nearby pond. The completion of this community centre has proved that conventional local resources and materials can be used to build a successful environmentally friendly building.

Some biomimicry elements are put on the test here! The interior walls are coloured in light blue, a hue that flies shun. The splay of the classroom windows are painted yellow, a hue that specific insects dislike. Yellow has been also used on exterior walls. It refers to the flowers of the mustard plant, a crop that colors large parts of the country from December to January. Grey and black are the other shades, which in turn refer to the color of the Bengal earth before and after rainfall.

 

From a bioclimatic point of view the orientation of the building allows to emphasize the natural cross ventilation. The roof of the building is suspended to both sides (East and West) providing shade, protecting the biggest openings against rain and collecting rainwater into the courtyard. Also the use of nearby ponds for natural draft to cool the classrooms was taken into account in the design.

Bengal buildings are almost all constructed with bricks. We also used bricks but in an optimized and locally unknow brickwork bond that doesn’t require whole-brick walls for stability. Thus minimizing the costs and maintaining the main advantage, the use of local materials and craftsmanship. U-shaped brick columns support the South facade of the building, creating a row of small vertical windows. The dimensions are chosen in such a way that direct sunlight into the classrooms is minimized still providing in optimal daylight illumination.

Although bamboo is seen as an inferior material in the region, the architects have chosen to make the whole roof construction out of it. Even the walls and French doors of the workshop are cladded with it! A reference to the bamboo bikes that are made here.

 

Project Specs

LOCAL SOURCES

During the design process attention was mainly focused on locally available materials, skills and weather conditions. Bamboo, hand-shaped brick, Mango wood, reused steel, local mortar and wafer-thin recycled corrugated panels are the main materials used in the building. The drive was to encourage locals to become aware on the basic principles of sustainability and durable building concepts. In effect close to zero electricity or fossil fuels were used during construction and other necessities required for erecting this building.

Social Good

The Dutch foundation Pani commissioned the architectural office to design an educational building in the north Bengal town of Rajarhat. The architects couple embraced this pro bono assignment coming from ideological motives and knowledge sharing. Thus realizing an environmentally friendly building that contributes to the community in a significant way. We want to improve the hygiene and work on education. Reduce child mortality and ensure economic independence.

The main goal is to train people and become autonomous eventually making the foundation superfluous. This begins with learning the necessary skills required for long-term planning and develop confidence in the future and by gaining knowledge and skills to practice a profession.

Together with the locals we look at what products are needed. Underprivileged are then educated how to make and sell these products locally. The concept is to combine and optimize local techniques with local materials. For this the strategy is to participate in the evolution and modernization of the local construction processes without a rupture in the ‘’know how’’ of the population.

The building techniques use for this project are also very easy to learn and diffused by the main contractor, which will contribute to the local construction modernization.

Environmental awareness

In the North of Bangladesh buildings are almost all constructed with bricks, so we propose also the use of bricks but in an optimized and locally unknow brickwork bond that doesn’t require whole-brick walls for stability, minimizing the costs and maintaining the main advantage, the use of local materials and craftsmanship.

U-shaped brick columns support the South facade of the building, thus creating a row of small vertical windows. Ultimately, this can be understood as a single stone wall, a great saving on construction costs, time and labor. The dimensions are chosen with great care, in such a way that direct sunlight into the classrooms is minimized still providing in optimal daylight illumination. This application of local bricks is less expensive and reduces the use of construction wood by combining bamboo with thin concrete floors. This minimizes the shortage of wood in Bangladesh as well future maintenance costs.

From a bioclimatic point of view the orientation of the building allows to emphasize the natural cross ventilation. The roof of the building is suspended to both sides (East and West) providing shade, protecting the biggest openings against rain and collecting rainwater into the courtyard. Also the use of nearby ponds for natural draft to cool the classrooms was taken into account in the design.

Although bamboo is seen as an inferior material in the region, the architects have chosen to make the whole roof construction out of it.  Even the walls and French doors of the workshop are cladded with it! Thus being a reference to the bamboo bicycle frames that are made here.

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