Architecture in Dialogue: The Aga Khan Award for Architecture


General view of the building during the dry season. /Photo © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Sandro di Carlo Darsa General view of the building during the dry season. /Photo © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Sandro di Carlo Darsa

Arcadia Education Project

South Kanarchor, Bangladesh

The Arcadia Education Project, a modular structure—incorporating space for a preschool, a hostel, a nursery and a vocational training centre—takes a novel approach to a riverine site that is often flooded for five months every year. Rather than disrupting the ecosystem to create a mound for building, the architect devised the solution of an amphibious structure that could sit on the ground or float on the water, depending on seasonal conditions.

Architect: Saif Ul Haque Sthapati, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Client: Maleka Welfare Trust, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Children playing on the terrace. / Photo © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Sandro di Carlo DarsaChildren playing on the terrace. / Photo © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Sandro di Carlo Darsa

The building is mainly made of bamboo, which is a traditional and very popular construction material in Bangladesh. / Photo © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Sandro di Carlo Darsa The building is mainly made of bamboo, which is a traditional and very popular construction material in Bangladesh. / Photo © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Sandro di Carlo Darsa

“I observed the way people build with bamboo here and, in some places, I have used exactly the material they would be using in their traditional houses. I said that, ‘No, I’m not going to innovate everything here.’ So, my innovation is how to have a platform that floats and that settles on the ground.”

—Saif Ul Haque, Architect

The architect segmented the building into amphibious modules, which can operate during both dry periods and floods. / Photo © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Sandro di Carlo Darsa The architect segmented the building into amphibious modules, which can operate during both dry periods and floods. / Photo © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Sandro di Carlo Darsa

View of the access ramp. / Photo © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Sandro di Carlo Darsa View of the access ramp. / Photo © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Sandro di Carlo Darsa

The site on which the school is built is a 486 square meter patch of land under a bridge. In the dry season, it is located 50 meters from a large river. During the monsoon season, the land is over-flooded under almost three meters of water. / Photo © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Sandro di Carlo Darsa The site on which the school is built is a 486 square meter patch of land under a bridge. In the dry season, it is located 50 meters from a large river. During the monsoon season, the land is over-flooded under almost three meters of water. / Photo © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Sandro di Carlo Darsa

During the dry season, children can play in the fields around the school.  / Photo © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Sandro di Carlo Darsa During the dry season, children can play in the fields around the school. / Photo © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Sandro di Carlo Darsa

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