Sometimes we use our Monday morning to look beyond our own work. We are lucky to have working with us an ex Strathclyde University student whose final year project focussed on a contribution to a settlement in Bangladesh and this formed the focus of our Monday discussion.
Before saying a little about Marianne’s story, it is worth noting that Strathclyde University has always pioneered alternative routes to the Part Two RIBA accreditation for final year students. Originating with the new school in the late 1960’s with the creation of Assist Architects and the pioneering Abacus studio, a whole series of initiatives have emerged from the university suggesting fresh and new ways of doing things.
But back to Marianne, having completed her studies she decided to see if that work would be of real and tangible value. What emerged remarkably, was the opportunity to contribute to a new build grouping of buildings in the form of a community facility of a two storey urban building set within a village setting. This building hugged the street and provided two rooms one above the other with an external stair.
Marianne worked with an NGO which focused on housing provision, in particular traditionally structured bamboo houses with cross bracing set on pads. That opportunity revealed a host of construction possibilities and interesting techniques such as the need for 5 percent cement to be added to the mud mix with the rammed earth and chips to form the ground floor plinth, the need to treat bamboo to give a life of 20 years (otherwise termites will eat it), the casting of clusters of bamboo trunks into the corners of the rammed earth walls as starter elements for the upper level bamboo frame, solar powered lights as electrical supply is erratic due to the illegal pumping of water, and finally raw finishes of bamboo as a matted floor covering and to form attractive bracing details.
A remarkable model for us all and a great example of work rooted in the indigenous experience, especially working alongside these skills.
What is even more astonishing is that Marianne raised the money to construct the building in Scotland before travelling to Bangladesh.
A lovely contribution quote from a parishioner in Marianne’s parish typifies this remarkable story.
'‘Father, this is £100 I borrowed off Mr Ladbrokes (to be paid back with interest) £50 is for The Sunrise Foundation and £50 for the lassie who designed and wants to build a place for children in some far-off place. I wish it was St Thomas more but Mr Ladbrokes has a high interest rate. Yours in Devine Mercy, The Bookies Runner.”
Post graduation Marianne raised the money to enable construction totalling over £7400 in order to get her hands dirty digging foundations, building the frame, walls and finishing off the building. Fascinatingly it looks like an actual realisation of Marianne’s and her then partner Cara's final year thesis from Strathclyde.
An amazing achievement.