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Addressing hardship Supporting scholarship

RIBA Boyd Auger Scholarship In 2007, Mrs Margot Auger donated a sum of money to the RIBA in memory of her late husband, the architect and civil engineer Boyd Auger, for the creation and administration of a funding scheme to reward a student or group of students of architecture. The scholarship was first awarded in 2008 and has funded eight talented students since. Boyd Auger achieved international fame in 1968 when he used computer programming to address a difficult housing problem in Italy. Even though the project was never built, Auger’s proposal was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London and his radically innovative methods (which maximised light, view and privacy in housing design) were featured in the BBC television programme ‘Cities of the Future’. In 1969 he won the Reynold Memorial Award by the American Institute of Architects for best use of aluminium in his Gyrotron project, a 200-foot spaceframe structure built in 1967 for the Montreal Expo. His was the second ever British project to receive the Reynold Memorial award, following James Stirling and James Gowan in 1965 for their engineering block at Leicester University. The RIBA Boyd Auger Scholarships honours Boyd Auger’s belief that architects always learn while they travel and, as such, it supports young people who wish to undertake imaginative and original research during periods of travel abroad. The scholarship aims to support architecture students, graduates, academics and recentlyqualified architects to produce a piece of research in the field of Architecture or to support a student undergoing a period of professional practice internationally after successful completion of Part 1 and prior to enrolling in the Part 2.

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the role of earth architecture and construction within a disaster risk reduction framework for areas at risk of flooding across bangladesh

Jo Ashbridge University of Cambridge In July 2012 I was living in northwest Bangladesh, working in collaboration with ‘Engineers without Borders’ (EWB-UK). Alongside designing modest doublestorey bamboo houses within local slums I began developing field tests to improve the water resilience of earthen plasters, a material that fascinated me. Returning from the fields one day, having been harvesting various natural raw materials, I received an email to confirm I had been awarded the RIBA Boyd Auger Scholarship. The grant would allow me to continue working in Bangladesh focusing on the role of earth architecture in low-cost housing provision for areas at risk of flooding. Being an independent project, the prospect was both exhilarating and a little daunting. Bordered by India, Myanmar and the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. The low-lying nature of the terrain (with a large percentage of the land less than 12 meters above sea level) means that Bangladesh is vulnerable to flooding and cyclones and is now widely recognised as one of the countries at greatest risk from climate change. In recent years, Bangladesh has witnessed a range of disasters, including Cyclone Aila in 2009, and floods and landslides throughout 2010, 2011 and 2012. In parallel to emergency response efforts, disaster risk reduction is key, working with local communities to strengthen the ability of individuals and families to cope with natural disasters and their complex effects. Improved shelter construction technologies and techniques based on successful existing practices is just one of the many aspects to encourage community self-reliance rather than dependence on aid.

With the ever-present threat of natural disasters and the reality that nearly half the population of Bangladesh is living on less than $1 a day, it is vital to consider the cost of materials, their life cycle and cultural significance. Despite the use of earth in architecture and construction throughout history and across the world, the architectural landscape is changing in many developing countries. Glass, steel and concrete often overshadow more traditional techniques, particularly in the urban context. What role does earth play at present and what will it play in the future? In October, I set off to begin phase one in the far southwest of the country. The intention was to work my way slowly eastwards documenting local vernacular and shelter projects provided by national and international agencies. As I stepped off the bus in Satkhira Town, the gravity of the journey began to sink in. My home in the northern village of Sundarban was some 16 hours away and this new ‘shrimp farming country’ in the southern belt was a foreign land. I had been told there was a budget hotel on the main access route. I hailed a rickshaw and we set off into the darkness with a hurricane lantern. Over the next four months I travelled by local bus, motorbike, van, rickshaw, bicycle, ferry and carved canoe. I waded through swamps and tiptoed across

the architectural landscape is changing in many developing countries

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26 / 27 forced to juggle time constraints, donor requirements, programme budgets and beneficiary coverage. The Flood Resistant Shelter (FRESH) project for example, the largest of its kind to date in Bangladesh, sought to provide 12073 shelters across Khulna division in less than 14 months. This meant an on-site construction time of 5 days per house. Walls, windows and roof coverings were therefore transported to site as components, leaving little opportunity for earthen architecture. Following phase one it was time to reunite with my former colleagues in the north. Simple Action For the Environment (SAFE) is a small local organisation that seeks to reduce the vulnerability of low-income households to environmental hazards. One of their core activities is the promotion of improved and sustainable construction techniques. With the team on board we set out to find a village in which to work and identify a beneficiary household. The next two months involved site visits, community consultations, household surveys and needs analysis. In February 2013 we began work in Nobu para, a 10-minute cycle north from my home

bridges constructed of single bamboo culms. I fell into many a padi field. My goal was to reach villages so remote that many of the inhabitants had never seen a ‘bideshi’ (foreigner) in the flesh. The hospitality I received was overwhelming. Despite a hand-to-mouth existence in many cases, a spread of delights always emerged; shrimp curry, dal, fried aubergine, crispy potato pieces and roti followed by sweet jellies filled with local fruits and a strong shot of tea. Earth is a key element of traditional architecture in Bangladesh. This material is often freely available from community ponds (or slightly less legally) from government owned land. Solutions vary from district to district

earth is a key element of traditional architecture in Bangladesh

to date will play a key role in the design approach alongside working with the family as clients and co-designers, an important distinction to achieve appropriate development. As I sit writing this whirlwind overview of my life and work we are putting the finishing touches to the new latrine, the first of its kind in the village. Let’s hope we stay on schedule and under budget (a little hopeful?) over the next few months during phase three construction. through lush padi fields. To ensure a participatory approach we worked with all nine households in the hamlet to choose the beneficiaries: a family of five.

For more information visit: www.joashbridge.breezi.com/blog

Our shared vision for the future is to create a new home with increased space that significantly improves living standards through environmentally conscious design, appropriate construction and sustainable material choice. We will focus on locally available products and employ local labour whilst balancing cost considerations to ensure the scheme is compatible with the community and exhibits the potential for replication. The research

and from neighbour to neighbour. Thick uncompacted earth plinths, sundried earth blocks and earthen plasters offer increased thermal mass, tempering the internal environment. They compliment other traditional materials such as bamboo, coconut timber, jute and wheat straw and the majority of technologies do not require expensive tools or technical knowledge. However, this beautifully tactile material is at threat from the environment. I witnessed countless examples or severe erosion due to standing water, flash floods and monsoon rains, alongside termite and rodent attack. In addition, ongoing maintenance is required, which in itself is a heavy burden. In comparison, shelter programmes have been and are continuing to provide low-cost solutions particularly in Aila affected areas. The designs vary from basic transitional ‘shells’ providing a level of protection from the environment to more permanent schemes offering a more holistic response with rainwater harvesting and latrine facilities. Although many feature earthen plinths, this material is not a common feature. National and international agencies are

it is vital to consider the cost of materials

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RIBA Education Yearbook 2013 - Jo Ashbridge