German architect Anna Heringer’s Anandaloy in Bangladesh wins Obel Award

German architect Anna Heringer has won the prestigious Obel Award 2020 for the Anandaloy, a community therapy centre and textile workshop in Dinajpur, for its architectural excellence.

The Danish architecture honour is given annually to a building or architectural project that showcases excellence in architectural achievement, reports

Anandaloy, which means ‘place of deep joy’, houses a therapy centre for people with disabilities on the ground floor and a fair-trade textile manufacturing workshop for local women on its first floor.

Made out of rammed earth and bamboo, the structure explores age-old local building techniques in soft curves and textures that connect with its place and the region’s vernacular.

“The key motivation always is to use architecture as a tool to improve lives,” says the architect, who has spent part of her life in Bangladesh, is the UNESCO Chair of Earthen Architecture, Building Cultures, and Sustainable Development and focuses on the use of natural and readily available building materials.

“The vision behind, and motivation for my work is to explore and use architecture as a medium to strengthen cultural and individual confidence, to support local economies and to foster the ecological balance. Joyful living is a creative and active process and I am deeply interested in the sustainable development of our society and our built environment,” said Anna.

“For me, sustainability is a synonym for beauty: a building that is harmonious in its design, structure, technique and use of materials, as well as with the location, the environment, the user, the socio-cultural context. This, for me, is what defines its sustainable and aesthetic value,” she added.

Respecting local heritage and crafts, the project was made using only local materials, construction methods and workforce. This – climate-positive design and sustainability on all levels – was a key aspect in the judging process.

The jury this year included Martha Schwartz (founder, Martha Schwartz Partners, USA), Kjetil Trædal Thorsen (co-founder, Snöhetta, Norway), Louis Becker (design principal and partner, Henning Larsen, Denmark), Dr Wilhelm Vossenkuhl (professor emeritus of philosophy, Germany), and XU Tiantian (founding principal, DnA, Beijing, China).

“The Anandaloy building is not only a spatial solution to a number of both basic and specific human needs, the project as a whole is a multi-layered response to the challenge of mending by cleverly interweaving sustainable, social, and architectural design,” says the judging panel in a statement.

Louis Becker, lead partner and design principal of Henning Larsen Architects, has been involved in setting up the award since its inception.

“This prize was set up to promote new possibilities and the different directions architecture could have. This year, the winning project has a very direct social impact – it is doing something every day to change the lives of people locally. It also showcases what you can do by using local knowledge. It is very much aligned with what we wanted to do when we created the award,” said Louis.