Pani Community Centre
The Netherlands-based Pani Foundation commissioned the Rotterdam office of Gerrit Schilder and Hill Scholte to design a community center for Rajarhat, a town in northern Bangladesh, near the Indian border. Realization of a regional vocational school, consisting of classrooms, a workshop and shop, a courtyard with collective toilets and water pump for local residents. The entire project is only realized with local builders and materials, a lot of manual work, almost no electricity. Everything under one large corrugated iron roof supported by a bamboo frame.
This building in the north Bengal town of Rajarhat serves as a community center. The 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 910-square-meter complex was carried out with the express intention of passing on to the population building skills that are sustainable and easy to apply with local materials. Made of recycled panels of corrugated steel and held up by a frame of bamboo poles, an elevated U-shaped roof protects a courtyard and three brick volumes – rising two or three levels, with bright yellow plaster – containing classrooms, a workshop, and a store. The east-west orientation of the volumes creates the conditions for cross ventilation. The project also includes a system for collecting rainwater.
The floor plan (24 x 32 m) is east-west oriented and consists of two volumes under a large bamboo roof structure. On the south side we find the classrooms and on the north side the workshop and store. Two sight lines traverse the building in all four directions. The lifting of the roof high above the volumes, creating a dropped ceiling, 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. With the completion of this striking design we have proved that conventional local resources and materials can be used to build a successful environmentally friendly building.
The Dutch foundation Pani commissioned SchilderScholte architects 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. The building serves as a community centre for folks from the region, aged from toddlers to elder people.
During the design process attention was mainly focused on locally available materials and weather conditions. The starting point was to realize a building using materials and skills from within a 15 miles radius around the site. 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. Thus realizing an environmentally friendly building that contributes to the community in a significant way. The plan (79×105 ft) is East-West oriented and consists of two volumes under a large bamboo roof construction.
The classrooms and lavatories are positioned on the South side and on the North side we find the workshop with store. Two sight lines traverse the building in all four directions. 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. With the completion of this striking design the architects have proved that conventional local resources and materials can be used to build successful environmentally friendly unconventional architecture.
The 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 with adjacent collective lavatories. At first level, on top of the workshop, there is a freely accessible assembly floor for public meetings. This part of the building is connected by a footbridge coming from the classrooms.
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. The final assembly of the bikes take place at the backside under the roof. The front of the workshop faces the main road and houses the bicycle shop.
From a bioclimatic point of view the orientation of the building allows to emphasize the natural cross ventilation, which prevents costs with electric fans. 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. 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.
In the North of Bangladesh buildings are almost all constructed with bricks in combination with corrugated panels, 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. Also the use of nearby ponds for natural draft to cool the classrooms was taken into account in the design. The 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. 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.
Some biomimicry elements are put on the test here! The brick-built volumes are all plastered and partly painted. 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 opted as the dominant color. 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.
Project name: Pani Community Centre
Location: Rajarhat, Bangladesh
Coordinates: 25.800643, 89.545381
Type: Community Centre, School
Project Area: 910 sqm
Completion Year: 2014
Client / Owner / Developer: Stichting Pani / Pani Foundation, Arnhem, the Netherlands
Architects: SchilderScholte Architecten – Veerhaven 14-15, 3016 CJ Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Interior designer: SchilderScholte Architecten
Project Team: Gerrit Schilder, Hill Scholte
Structural Engineer: PT-structural, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Main contractor: MEI, Rajarhat, Bangladesh
Text Description: © Courtesy of SchilderScholte Architecten
Images: © SchilderScholte Architecten