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The UK chapter of charity Architecture for Humanity (AfH) has revealed the details of its first international project.

The group, headed by BDP's Chris Medland and Megan Yates of Techniker, has worked pro bono with a group of students from Oxford University's Said Business School to design this Arnica flower-drying facility in Romania.

The concept - for the timber-clad, naturally ventilated 12 x 5m facility - is that of a generic model, which can be rolled out to other surrounding areas by local teams.

The brief demanded a building that would provide space for the drying process, the facilities required for hotair production, the storage of 'green timber' and a lobby area for preparation.

The British-based charity also tried to design a building that could be constructed using vernacular building methods, materials and techniques as a way of guaranteeing that local trades can carry out the work on the structures.

Another unusual design challenge was allowing for the potentially steep slopes and remote sites of the Carpathian Mountains, where most of the Arnica-growing cottage industry is found.

The scheme was also carried out in collaboration with a community co-operative in Girda de Sus, in the west of Romania, which will further develop the designs to suit other sites.

The project, supported by the World Wildlife Fund, is as much a venture in business as an architectural exercise. As such, both AfH and Said representatives have worked on developing the business model for the site.

Its main aim is to set up a pilot business that will 'add value' onsite by drying the flowers as soon as they are picked, and then exporting them directly to a German buyer with whom a contract has already been negotiated.

This business will be set up as a hybrid non-governmental organisation/not-for-profit company, with profits fed back into the system as subsidies for local farmers to keep some flowers on the fields to maintain ecological sustainability.

With the drying season starting in June, construction is planned to start on site in the next few weeks.


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