Small but mighty

Marina Tabassum’s moveable house joins the Vitra Campus.

A demountable house by Bangladeshi architect and Aga Khan Award for Architecture recipient Marina Tabassum has been installed at the Vitra Campus in Germany. It serves as an example of a certain architectural mindset and a concrete response to problems exacerbated by the climate crisis.


In Bangladesh, where floods are increasingly frequent due to climate change, countless people have to constantly look for new homes. In this context, Tabassum and her team developed the Khudi Bari (which means little house in Bengali) a low-cost structure that can be erected, dismantled, transported and reassembled elsewhere by the residents themselves. The extremely low-cost, lightweight structure can be assembled and dismantled by hand – without electricity or any other means of mechanical power.


Developed by Tabassum during the lockdown of 2020 as a potential shelter for the marginalised landless population living in the sand beds of river Meghna, the Khudi Bari structure is built with structural bamboo and steel joints to facilitate assembly and disassembly in a short period of time, and can be moved to safer locations in times of crisis. Two levels of the modular house double the use of space and offer refuge during flooding. The construction materials are locally sourced to reduce the cost and carbon footprint.


According to Tabassum, the project is ‘envisioned as a time appropriate intervention in the vernacular practice of building’ and, as such, dialogues and engagement with the vulnerable communities were an integral part of the process.


The Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein is an active industrial site that has embraced a programme of architectural experimentation and cultural engagement and welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Architectural installations by Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Tadao Ando, Álvaro Siza, Nicholas Grimshaw and SANAA can be found on the grounds. Together with the recent planting of a Miyawaki forest and the construction of the Garden House by Tsuyoshi Tane, the Khudi Bari is an expression of a new orientation on the Vitra Campus committed to the innovative solutions tackling climate change. 


Tabassum’s team has built numerous houses together with relief organisations and community groups, improving existential conditions for a vulnerable population living at the absolute minimum subsistence level. More than a hundred Khudi Bari have already been installed and more are yet to come.



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