Holcim Foundation


Updating and upgrading traditional building materials and technologies

Although the widely applauded exhibition “Machen!” (German for “do”) featuring six Holcim Awards winning projects by German design teams continues at the Aedes Architekturforum in Berlin until the end of August, the series of podium discussions has now concluded. Architects Francis Kéré (Kéré Architecture Berlin) and Eike Roswag (Ziegert | Roswag | Seiler architekten ingenieure Berlin) fascinated 200 guests with presentations of their two school projects that are under construction in Burkina Faso and Pakistan – both projects use traditional building materials and technologies and place great emphasis on actively involving the local population in the construction process.

One of the main challenges faced by both authors was skepticism about the use of clay and bamboo as the main building material in both countries. Locals trust imported products more than their own heritage. Even Francis Kéré, himself a son of the village headman of Gando where his latest school complex for more than 1,000 children is being constructed, needs to convince the locals of the durability and strength of clay which he pours and casts similar to concrete by adding a small amount of cement. Eike Roswag encountered similar reluctance in the course of building a two-storey structure with a bamboo upper floor. 

In both cases the locals needed to be persuaded of the advantages of their traditional materials and be educated by the foreign teams in applying traditional material in new and more sustainable ways. “It is a matter of teaching and empowering the local craftsman”, Kéré and Roswag agreed; they must learn for themselves that freely available clay, stones, bamboo, and related materials encompass all properties necessary to build in the respective geographic and climatic context. 

The event was opened by Ulla Giesler (Aedes), and introduced by Ilka Ruby (textbild) and Edward Schwarz (Holcim Foundation). The range of prize winning projects by German design teams is extremely broad and reflected in the “Machen!” exhibition as well as in a book (in German) with the same title. The Global Holcim Awards 2012 for German design teams will be presented to the winners in the forthcoming months at dedicated events in Berlin (Bronze for Jan and Tim Edler), Hamburg (Innovation for Frank Barkow and Mike Schlaich) and Lausanne, Switzerland (Gold for Francis Kéré).

Last Updated: August 20, 2012
Article Details
Berlin, Germany
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