Holcim Foundation


Grafting Earth

Fostering communities in harmony with nature

To begin her seminar, Anna Heringer stated that, while architecture can be used as a tool to improve lives, unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Because the act of building consumes many resources and involves significant budgets that, in turn, impact society, she claimed that architects have an enormous responsibility to not only construct buildings, but to foster communities that occur in harmony with nature.

Referencing her renowned design for the METI School (2007) (pictured below), constructed with earth and bamboo as its principle materials, Heringer explained that, for her, it is essential to involve human beings as sources of creative energy in the construction process, thus stimulating local economies in doing so. In the case of the METI School, designed with the objective of creating a comfortable and inviting space for students to learn, young children were included in the building process and workers were able to invest their earnings in other areas of the community. Additionally, Heringer emphasised the importance of empowering women through the creation of opportunities for craftsmanship, such as textile production.


Continuing with an explanation of the inspirations and technical aspects behind the Anandaloy Centre (2020), a centre in Bangladesh designed for people with disabilities, Heringer commented to the seminar’s listeners that one of the greatest strengths of architecture is to make inclusivity tangible and visible, exemplified by the large ramp winding up the first floor of this building in particular.

Noting the difficulty of bringing similar approaches to the building regulations of European contexts, Heringer applied similar values to the design and construction of the Omicron Monolith (2015) in Austria, noting that impactful change is is sometimes realised not just through large actions, but small decisions with regard to materials. In particular, it is through the use of locally found, natural materials, she said, that humanity can create a healthier and more sustainable world, as well as a more just and inclusive society. To this end, Heringer concluded by noting that, in using natural materials that exist in abundance, architects and designers are able to overcome the guilt sometimes associated with building, allowing them to work creatively and innovatively to design joyful structures.

Contents Report - Norman Foster Foundation - Re-materializing Housing Workshop

Last Updated: November 19, 2021
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Madrid, Spain
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Re-materializing Housing Workshop
Re-materializing Housing Workshop

The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction joined forces with the Norman Foster Foundation to support a workshop dedicated to...

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