Architectural quality can inspire positive change, and aesthetics as a phenomenon tends to carry social value far beyond the actual look and feel of a building. But in order to do so, accessibility and local ownership is crucial.

Working with architecture as a democratic tool, a building or a space has the ability to become a symbol of pride and ownership – in any given community.

All these projects are designed with consideration taken to the place, the users, and the way people experience architecture. An interpretation of regional architectural ideas is a shared motive behind the design decisions. Some of the buildings also intend to carry a symbolic value and attract attention. The care for detailing can be high, although the materials used might be cheap and construction is sometimes carried out quickly.

Some of the South of North teams have ensured a return to their sites, in order to make follow-ups on their projects. These experiences show that some of the projects change expression over time as they are being rebuilt for new purposes. It depicts an ongoing process of a building being adapted to the needs of the users, still containing some of the original qualities, but in a constant change.

Stimulating eco-tourism attractivity

Rintala–Eggertsson designing with students in India

“The organization is based on the local building tradition with a cluster of houses which compose a shaded courtyard situation where people can gather. Introducing an orthogonal traffic system in the building, one can add several of these buildings together to form a more urban setting in the situation where that is feasible. The project was designed and built so as to help the villagers build easily and sustainably. Through it, they ́d be able to profit from the tourism of the area.”

Highlighting the value of the location

TYIN Tegnestue’s cinnamon factory in Indonesia


“Cassia Coop Training Centre is built around a pair of mighty Durian trees, with a scenic view of the beautiful Kerinci lake in the front and with its back towards a lush cinnamon forest.

The main idea behind the project is the classic concept of a light wooden construction on a base of heavy brick and concrete. The wooden construction gives a feeling of being surrounded by cinnamon trees.

The main construction consists of a mass produced Y-pillar, bolted down into a concrete footing. The placement of the pillars subordinates to the floor-plans, while the system of the construction secures tightness and rigidity. Underneath the massive roof surface we placed five brick buildings, amongst them a small laboratory, classrooms, offices and a kitchen.”

A long-term commitment to developing ecological school architecture

Gyaw Gyaw at the Thai–Burmese border

“The process of building the school was a goal itself: international workshop participants proposed designs for the construction and the school headmaster chose the most suitable design. It was a copious and educative experience for all parts involved, with a result that answers the schools needs. The classrooms are much liked by teachers and students with the natural light and the beauty in the adobe.”

The beauty of the unfinished

Self-build as an empowernment strategy

“Apart from providing basic infrastructure, an obvious objective in upgrading projects is of course to increase the physical standards by building solid houses. But this is a process with no clear beginning and no end, since it ́s the residents themselves who are responsible for the construction. Basically, they build when there is money, stop, and start again when the next opportunity arises.

This fluidity enables people with very little resources to get started. Unfortunately, it also leads to many buildings never being finished. These processes could for sure be made more efficient. At the same time, they are the opposite of top-down planning, and something architects can learn a lot from them.”

ASF Sweden in India