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Global creativity, local potential: Bamboo Hostels in China by Anna Heringer

AnnaHeringer Baoxi BambooHostels

She sees sustainability as a synonym for beauty, and handmade constructions as a catalyst for development

Shortlisted for the Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture 2016

Winner of both the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and the AR Emerging Architecture Awards for her educational buildings in Bangladesh, Anna Heringer reasserts her beliefs and ambitions with every project, staying faithful to her approach yet challenging what new architecture can be created from the same raw materials and with the same design ethos.

Her latest scheme is a youth hostel in Baoxi, China. Under construction, it is part of a larger complex of 18 buildings – including a museum, ceramic workshop and a restaurant – for the Longquan International Biennale. The event is a pilot project to discuss and promote the use of bamboo in architecture, an all too often disregarded material.

Anna Heringer Baoxi

Anna Heringer Baoxi

Source: Jenny Ji

‘Heringer stays faithful to her approach when designing yet challenges what new architecture can be created from the same raw materials and with the same design ethos’

Anna Heringer Bamboo Hostel Baoxi6

Anna Heringer Bamboo Hostel Baoxi6

Guest house ground floor and roof plans

Anna’s contribution consists of three volumes built with walls of stone and earth enclosed in a light bamboo cage structure, their shapes inspired by the region’s traditional vases. The materiality is what adds all the difficulty to an essentially simple base geometry – a flat curve rotated 360 degrees around a central axis, much like clay pieces modelled on pottery wheels.

The refinement in details and level of craft was already evolving in the METI Handmade School, her first acclaimed project, and DESI Training Centre. In Baoxi, the complexity of the braided bamboo reaches a new level, emphasising her choice constantly to invest in people rather than the construction industry. ‘Creativity is global, but materials, skills and potential must remain local.’

AnnaHeringer Baoxi BambooHostels

AnnaHeringer Baoxi BambooHostels

Source: Jenny Ji

AnnaHeringer Baoxi BambooHostels5

AnnaHeringer Baoxi BambooHostels5

Women’s youth hostel first floor and terrace plan

‘Creativity is global, but materials, skills and potential must remain local’

The labour-intensive process is characteristic of Heringer’s projects, requiring active participation from the local workforce. As she explains, ‘there is always someone making a profit, so it is my responsibility as an architect to divide this profit in a fair way’. Rather than just building architecture, her projects are about building communities and opportunities, skills, confidence and cultural identity.

‘The project aims to promote the use of bamboo in architecture, an all too often disregarded material’

AnnaHeringer Baoxi Bamboohostels4

AnnaHeringer Baoxi Bamboohostels4

Source: Jenni Ji

Anna Heringer Bamboo Hostels Baoxi

Anna Heringer Bamboo Hostels Baoxi

Sleeping capsules

AnnaHeringer Baoxi Bamboohostels4

AnnaHeringer Baoxi Bamboohostels4

Source: Jenny Ji

When designing a building, she says she multiplies it seven billion times in her head and asks herself: am I contributing to more equality and more diversity on the planet?

She deeply believes architecture is a tool to change lives; she sees sustainability as a synonym for beauty, and handmade constructions as a catalyst for development. Her ambition, however, is to prove the validity of these materials beyond the rural areas of the developing world.

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