A Bangladeshi community building by Anna Heringer wins Obel Award 2020

German architect Anna Heringer's Anandaloy project in rural Bangladesh scoops the prestigious Obel Award for 2020

Obel Prize WINNER 2020 Anandaloy by Anna Heringer
(Image credit: Kurt Hoerbst)

Anandaloy, a community therapy centre and textile workshop in rural Bangladesh, and its creator, German architect Anna Heringer, have been presented with the second ever Obel Award. The Danish architecture honour, whose inaugural winner, Junya Ishigami's Art Biotop Water Garden, was announced about a year ago, is given annually to a building or architectural project that showcases excellence in architectural achievement. 

Anandaloy, which means ‘place of deep joy', contains a therapy centre for people with disabilities on the ground floor and a fair-trade textile manufacturing workshop for local women on the first floor. Made out of rammed earth and bamboo, the structure explores age-old local building techniques in soft curves and textures that connect with its place and the region's vernacular. 

Obel Prize WINNER 2020 Anandaloy by Anna Heringer portrait

(Image credit: Kurt Hoerbst)

‘The key motivation always is to use architecture as a tool to improve lives,' says the architect, who has spent part of her life in Bangladesh, is the UNESCO Chair of Earthen Architecture, Building Cultures, and Sustainable Development and focuses on the use of natural and readily available building materials.

‘The vision behind, and motivation for my work is to explore and use architecture as a medium to strengthen cultural and individual confidence, to support local economies and to foster the ecological balance. Joyful living is a creative and active process and I am deeply interested in the sustainable development of our society and our built environment. For me, sustainability is a synonym for beauty: a building that is harmonious in its design, structure, technique and use of materials, as well as with the location, the environment, the user, the socio-cultural context. This, for me, is what defines its sustainable and aesthetic value.'

Respecting local heritage and crafts, the project was made using only local materials, construction methods and workforce. This - climate-positive design and sustainability on all levels - was a key aspect in the judging process. The jury this year included Martha Schwartz (founder, Martha Schwartz Partners, USA), Kjetil Trædal Thorsen (co-founder, Snöhetta, Norway), Louis Becker (design principal and partner, Henning Larsen, Denmark), Dr Wilhelm Vossenkuhl (professor emeritus of philosophy, Germany), and XU Tiantian (founding principal, DnA, Beijing, China). 

‘The Anandaloy building is not only a spatial solution to a number of both basic and specific human needs, the project as a whole is a multi-layered response to the challenge of mending by cleverly interweaving sustainable, social, and architectural design,' says the judging panel in a statement. 

Louis Becker, lead partner and design principal of Henning Larsen Architects, has been involved in setting up the award since its inception: ‘This prize was set up to promote new possibilities and the different directions architecture could have. This year, the winning project has a very direct social impact - it is doing something every day to change the lives of people locally. It also showcases what you can do by using local knowledge. It is very much aligned with what we wanted to do when we created the award.' 

Obel Prize WINNER 2020 Anandaloy by Anna Heringer side view

(Image credit: Kurt Hoerbst)

Obel Prize WINNER 2020 Anandaloy by Anna Heringer interior

(Image credit: Kurt Hoerbst)

Obel Prize WINNER 2020 Anandaloy by Anna Heringer detail

(Image credit: Kurt Hoerbst)

Obel Prize WINNER 2020 Anandaloy by Anna Heringer construction detail

(Image credit: Kurt Hoerbst)



Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).

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