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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Earthen School in Jar Maulwi, Pakistan by Ziegert Roswag Seiler Architekten Ingenieure

February 11th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Ziegert Roswag Seiler Architekten Ingenieure

SINGAPUR School and development organisation Tipu Sultan Merkez (TSM) was awarded Gold at the Holcim Award celebration for its work in Asia. The Holcim Awards for sustainable constructions are presented every three years by the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction. Three honourable mentions and three prizes are awarded in five regions, and the recipients are automatically nominated for the global award.

Mixing brickearth (Photo: Roswag Architekten)

  • Architects: Ziegert | Roswag | Seiler Architekten Ingenieure
  • Project: Earthen School Tipu Sultan Merkez
  • Location: Jar Maulwi, Pakistan
  • Contractor, project sponsor: Tipu Sultan Merkez (TSM)
  • Software used: VectorWorks. The Layout was done in Adobe InDesign.

Cob bricks (Photo: Roswag Architekten)

VEBS – Verein für Entwicklung, Bildung und Selbsthilfe e.V.
Micro-Project-Scheme‘ of the Germany Embassy, Islamabad, Pakistan

Layered and modulated walls (Photo: Roswag Architekten)

Roswag Architekten
Eike Roswag, General Manager, concept
Maria Scheicher, Project Director, design, planning
Arne Tönissen, planning, construction direction, implementation
Christoph Borchers, research and design
Tiago Rocha Damasceno, implementation
Allah Ditta Asim, implementation

A classroom (Photo: Roswag Architekten)

Local architects
Profile architectural consultancy
Ghayyoor Syed Obaid, local consultant

Structural planning, special consulting on earth construction
Ziegert | Seiler Engineers
Dr.-Ing. Christof Ziegert, special consulting on earth construction
Uwe Seiler, structural planning
Chiara Perron, structural planning

Veranda (Photo: Roswag Architekten)

Consulting on bamboo design, connection technique
Geflecht und Raum, Emmanuel Heringer

The school – currently being constructed – is erected by Ziegert Roswag Seiler Architekten Ingenieure with local craftsmen using earth and bamboo. The design continues local building traditions, and it is intended to act as an example of modern earthen architecture in Pakistan. Besides ecological and economical effects, social aspects, like the creation of a local identity, also played an immanent role in the design process.

Constructing the ceiling (Photo: Roswag Architekten)

The project was developed by Ziegert Roswag Seiler Architekten Ingenieure in cooperation with TSM. This privately initiated and financed school and development project in Pakistan was founded in 2001. The project includes two small kindergarten groups, five grammar school classes, and five advanced classes, the last of which is for girls only. Teachers are trained here, and ecological agricultural projects are also supported.

The construction of the school‘s extension has been coordinated to match the capabilities of local craftsmen so that they are able to build within the local context. During implementation, the participating craftsmen are trained as specialists in the improved building system. In the long-term, TSM plans to expand its activities in the area of vocational training, and to become a contact partner in the region for this purpose.

Detail of bamboo structure (Photo: Roswag Architekten)

The first building phase of the school has already completed the building shell, and craftsmen are currently beginning the interior. The architects rate the structural extension of the Tipu Sultan Merkez School as a further building block of the international strategy for architecture using local and natural materials. They have already received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for the School handmade in Bangladesh, in Mozambique they were able to implement eleven schools in a village setting together with the Aga Khan Foundation, they are currently planning a cultural centre in Ghana, and they are also planning and implementing a health centre in Ethiopia.

On 30th November 2011, the project participants will discuss the applied strategy together with those involved at a symposium in Lahore, Pakistan and install a local network for fostering natural building systems in Pakistan. The co-organiser of the symposium is the Institute of Architects in Pakistan (IAP), the architects and TSM with the support of the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan, Verein für Entwicklung, Bildung und Selbsthilfe e.V. (vebs), and the Habitat Unit of the Technical University of Berlin.

Ceiling structure connection with cords (Photo: Roswag Architekten)

Earthen School Tipu Sultan Merkez, Jar Maulwi, Pakistan
– New construction of a school featuring eight classrooms consisting of earth and bamboo in Jar Maulwi, Pakistan
– Two floors: heavy earth cube on ground floor and light bamboo design on top floor
– Earthquake and flood-resistant design
– Continued development of local building traditions, e.g. ‚cobwork‘
– Increased permanency via a moisture-resistant foundation, horizontal barrier and protection against termites
– Cooperation with local architects
– Implementation with local craftsmen who have been trained in the altered techniques
– Implementation in two construction phases
– In construction phase II (in the works): instruction and training of local workers in theory and practice


Corner detail of bamboo structure (Photo: Roswag Architekten)

Starting situation: people suffering from structural poverty, illiteracy, and poor housing
The project is located in rural Punjab, a province in the west of Pakistan. More precisely, the school is located close to the village Jar Maulwi in the district of Sheikhupura, approximately 70 km from the important city of Lahore. Punjab qualifies as the country‘s most densely populated province. The area is characterised by structural poverty, especially a lack of health care, reduced earning opportunities, and educational institutions. The rate of illiteracy in Pakistan is 50%, which is the most severe in all of Asia.

The traditional architecture found in the various regions of Pakistan developed according to local climatic conditions, available natural resources, and the population lifestyle. The most important construction materials are earth and wood, which are applied in diverse construction techniques and forms.

Bamboo structure as top floor (Photo: Roswag Architekten)

The use of earth as a construction material is especially prevalent in areas that are level with rivers. The material is a product of flood plains. The construction techniques applied vary; earth may be utilised as sun-dried bricks, rammed earth, or as so-called ‚cob‘, which is layered and moulded freely.

Wood is also an important traditional building material, but displacement and deforestation continues to make wood expensive and scarce. Wood has always been an important trade good, and today, it is still reserved for the construction of ceilings in buildings.

Since the traditional earthen building style requires high maintenance and is seen as outdated, more and more people are using baked bricks and concrete, which omits the climatic advantages of earth as a construction material.

Local residential buildings are normally constructed very simply; they have a foundation and are severely susceptible to weather damage. Due to a lack of any horizontal barrier, moisture is able to rise upwards, which weakens and damages the base area of the wall. Pests are also able to enter into the structure at a much faster rate.

Instable ceiling formations are also a problem, since the construction is not designed to be walked on. Nevertheless, inhabitants frequently use the roof as a living area and to sleep, especially during the summer. This quickly leads to cracks that damage the building and often expose it to strong rains. Since the solid exterior walls usually only feature a few small openings, there is also a lack of daylight, which reduces the quality of living conditions in interior areas.

Situation and position
The Tipu Sultan Merkez (TSM) campus is located close to the village of Jar Maulwi. Since its opening in 2001, the school has been enlarged continuously, and a new class has been added every year. The original eight classrooms were severely unable to meet the school‘s needs, so multiple classes were forced to share one room. In order to be able to continue operating the school in a sensible way, TSM required eight additional classrooms.

Definition of task according to Tipu Sultan Merkez
The new building should be built using natural building materials, especially earth and bamboo, which would also make it an attractive example of sustainable earthen building techniques in the region. The new school structure is intended to display the initiative that well-planned ‚modern‘ earthen structures are not only a low-cost and energy-saving alternative to brick and concrete structures, but also that earthen buildings are significantly less susceptible to weather effects and more sustainable than traditional designs.

Design concept
The new school building consists of the required eight classrooms and the required service areas. The classrooms are located in two separate earthen structures. A bamboo bearing structure is located between them and in front of them, which supports the staircase, service areas, and the free studying room.

The classes in the ground floor feature shelves and a large window with a seating bench directed towards the south. The balcony in the ground floor features benches made of bamboo and earth to provide additional seating surfaces. The veranda on the north side is relatively open and leans on the arcade featured by the existing structures.

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