In this lecture, Anna Heringer presents a series of projects where the choice of building materials and techniques has had a major influence on distribution of resources, participation and equality. Emphasizing that 'we cannot build houses of only steel and concrete for seven billion people' she proposes a strategy of bringing global creativity to the local materials, local skills and local potentials.

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Handmade Architecture as a Catalyst for Development - Anna Heringer


Anna Heringer is an architect and Hon.Prof. of the UNESCO Chair for Earthen Architecture, Constructive Cultures and Sustainable Development in Germany. She established her international reputation in sustainable architecture with the METI School in  Bangladesh, that she designed for her graduation thesis and realized in 2006 together with Eike Roswag. Since then, Heringer has further developed her award-winning approach based on the use of local materials and labor in several projects and workshops in Asia, Africa, Europe and the US, as well as in her teaching as visiting professor at Linz, Stuttgart and Vienna. She has recieved a number of awards, including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture.


Anna Heringer in this lecture stresses that architecture is a tool to improve lives, not only by providing roofs over peoples heads but to provide an architecture that contributes to dignity, a benevolent society and to cultural diversity.

In this, the choice of the material and building technique has a major input on the distribution of resources, on participation and equality. Heringer emhasizes that ‘...we cannot build homes for seven billion people in steel and concrete only’. One global strategy for sustainable building is instead to apply global creativity to local conditions and labour, and local natural building materials. As natural building materials are not standardized they are therefore very labour intensive, which creates work opportunities.

Anna Heringer encourages designers to when proposing a design ask themselves the question: ‘What would happen if seven billion people design and build the same way?’ If answered honestly, she proposes the answer to this question would make the world a bit more fair regarding the distribution of the profit, more diverse in terms of architectural language and culture, and avoid the exploitation of the planet`s ecosystem, saving it for future generations. She states that on a long term, the process is just as important as the architectural outcome.

In the challenge to create shelter for all she believes the main tasks to be:

  1. To search for potentials in the existing
  2. To raise the trust of communities in their own skills and resources
  3. To train people in the enhanced usage of naturally and locally available construction materials
  4. To build up the self-confidence of individuals and groups through participation
  5. To create work opportunities
  6. To foster cultural diversity

Through this achieving not only shelter, but also more equality and a more peaceful as well as creative society.


Anna Heringer official webpage

The Laufen Manifesto