The floating Arcadia Education Project confronts the challenge of rising water levels, while making use of local, sustainable materials and techniques
The winning project is a riverside school for underprivileged children, whose design faces up to the challenge of rising sea levels and makes use of bamboo, a local material and one that’s increasingly being hailed as a sustainable solution for future architecture. Located on a site that is submerged in three metres of monsoon water for a third of the year, it is designed to either float or sit above the ground, depending on the season, rather than being raised on stilts.
Razia Alam, the former UK-based teacher who established the school, worked with architecture firm Saif Ul Haque Sthapati and engineer Sadat Hossain, to create three multi-purpose classrooms, an office, an open platform and a bathroom with septic structures. Three types of bamboo were sourced from surrounding villages, then floated to the site along the river. The structure is kept afloat by 30-gallon steel drums encased within bamboo frames and bow-arched bamboo roofs create column-free spaces inside.
The school is anchored to the site during monsoon season, and while the bamboo is naturally waterproof, the remaining materials were waterproofed with liquid from boiled local gaab fruit. Most of the joints use a rope-tie technique, rather than steel wire, which would corrode, and construction was mostly carried out using hand tools.
Alongside the Arcadia Education Project, buildings in Bahrain, Palestine, Russian Federation, Senegal and the United Arab Emirates were also honoured in the latest iteration of the biennial architecture awards.