Grameen Bank Project
Location: New York City
Year: 2005, May.
Type: Proposal for Post Garduate William Kinne Fellows Travelling Prizes 2005
Authors: Enrique Moya-Angeler, Pilar Echezarreta
Tittle: Architectural and cultural impact of the Grameen Bank Project.


We first heard about Grameen Bank when we took the seminar “Theories of Self-Organization and the Dynamics of Cities” that Manuel Delanda teach at Columbia University.
Grameen Bank (GB) has reversed conventional banking practice by removing the need for collateral and created a banking system based on mutual trust, accountability, participation and creativity. GB provides credit to the poorest of the poor in rural Bangladesh, without any collateral. At GB, credit is a cost effective weapon to fight poverty and it serves as a catalyst in the over all development of socio-economic conditions of the poor who have been kept outside the banking orbit on the ground that they are poor and hence not bankable. Although each borrower must belong to a five-member group, the group is not required to give any guarantee for a loan to its member. Repayment responsibility solely rests on the individual borrower, while the group and the centre oversee that everyone behaves in a responsible way and none gets into repayment problem. There is no form of joint liability, i.e. group members are not responsible to pay on behalf of a defaulting member.
Grameen Bank was born in the village of Jobra, Bangladesh. The origin of Grameen Bank can be traced back to 1976 when Professor Muhammad Yunus, Head of the Rural Economics Program at the University of Chittagong, launched an action research project to examine the possibility of designing a credit delivery system to provide banking services targeted at the rural poor. It is owned by the poor borrowers of the bank who are mostly women. It works exclusively for them. Borrowers of Grameen Bank at present own 94 per cent of the total equity of the bank. The Grameen Bank Project came into operation with the following objectives: create opportunities for self-employment for the vast multitude of unemployed people in rural Bangladesh. Reverse the age-old vicious circle of “low income, low saving and low investment”, into virtuous circle of “low income, injection of credit, investment, more income, more savings, more investment, more income”.
To date, Grameen (which means "village") has loaned a total of about $3 billion to some 2.4 million borrowers, most of them women, and about 98 percent of its loans are repaid on time. Its practices have been adapted in at least 40 other countries, including the United States.



We will analyse the impact in terms of economy, society, culture and architecture observing the GB and interviewing loan recipients in the village and bank managers, attending borrowers meetings and walking through the villages. The visits will occur in Chittagong and Dhaka (Bangladesh) and in New Delhi and Calcutta (India). We will focus on micro-credit programs as effective, scalable initiatives to promote prosperity and empower the poor.

We will focus in the impact of these programs into infrastructure and architecture. Whenever a poor community is been helped by any kind of external financial aid, architecture becomes the physical witness. Typology, forms, building systems, materials, infrastructure, become a language in which development can be read.

We will do this research through a comparative analysis: we will investigate the relationships between four groups of five-members each and the connections between groups and the GB and their impact in architecture and urban development.
Our goal is not just to judge the Grameen Bank but to establish in witch terms we can intervene as architects.


The research will produce a documentary film with interviews and a written report with maps, plans and diagrams. We will define the target of our investigation into specific parameters even before encountering them. The information will include the environmental, spatial and temporal conditions of each borrower in the four different cases. We will interview Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, bank managers and four groups of five borrowers distributed in Bangladesh and India(see Fig.3: map of the itinerary).

How do we measure success of the Grameen Bank for a borrower?
We settled on ten indicators in order to calibrate the impact of the loans of the GB in the borrowers and their families. Are they having: (1) a tin-roof house, (2) beds or cots for all members of the family, (3) access to safe drinking water, (4) access to a sanitary latrine, (5) all school-aged children attending school, (6) sufficient warm clothing for the winter, (7) mosquito-nets, (8) a home vegetable garden, (9) not having a food shortage even during the most difficult time of a very difficult year, (10) and having sufficient income-earning opportunities for all adult members of the family?

How can we measure the potential relationships between the five-member borrowers?
We will try to study the relations between each of the five members of the group of borrowers. The diagrams (fig. 1) will be filled with the information produced during the interviews. The contexts of the interviews are used as a means of pre-editing the product.

The fact of being foreigners, without the knowledge of language as well as the reduced amount of time, will generate limitations during the report. This, at the same time, will place us in the position of stranger observers. One of the objectives is to become filters for this documentary. So assuming these facts we will try to observe the business operations of the Grameen Bank and interview loan recipients in the villages.
For the interviews we will contact with GB representatives as well as translators, in order to communicate with the people in the measure of our possibilities in India and in Bangladesh. Language will possibly be one of the strongest handicaps but we consider that it will also become a potential factor for the documentary production.

GB has been exported into other cultures around the world. As seen on fig. 2, most of them placed between the tropics. Our intention consists on the analysis of the origin and foundation of GB Bangladesh (Chittagong and Dhaka) and its first expansion to another country: India.

Development strategies are often built on large notions of infrastructure and changes in financial systems and markets. Microcredit is very simple. It uses a basic tenet of capitalism--people are smart enough to provide for themselves.
This Grameen Bank project pretends to widen our vision scope to prevent the infatuation face to a new possible kind of economy. Maybe, this particular case of GB is no more than a scheme on a smaller scale of the most brutal capitalism, and part of the negative consequences to push the borrowers into consumption instead of helping them to come out of extreme poverty.
Since Grameen's policies are friendly, it’s often mistake the bank with a charity. Forgiving international debt is a global problem, not an alternative for stopping poverty. It’s always being said that poverty generates poverty. The principal objective of the bank is to generate better living conditions out of poverty.

We will focus in the impact of these programs into infrastructure and architecture. Whenever a poor community is been helped by any kind of external financial aid, architecture becomes the physical witness. Typology, forms, building systems, materials, infrastructure, become a language in which development can be read.

The structure of the documentary will be based on this research. The film will be edited into a 35 minutes continuous piece. And we will produce a written report of 25 pages, and we will offer copies to the GSAAP Library.

Fig. 1: Case Studies Comparative Chart:
Potential relationships between the five-member borrowers in four case studies: spatial and sociological conditions of borrowers as individuals and as a credit system.

Fig. 2: Map of the Grameen Bank in the world

Fig. 3: Map of the Itinerary


Associated cost for two
(total sum included food, board, travel, material and activities)
1 Depart New York City (JFK) $2,400
2 Arrive to New Delhi (INDIA) $100
3 Travel to Dhaka-BANGLADESH $500
4 Contact case A (Dhaka) $100
5 Travel to Chittagong $400
6 Interview Prof. M. Yunus $100
7 Contact case B (Chittagong) $100
8 Travel to Calcutta $400
9 Contact case C $100
10 Travel to New Delhi $600
11 Contact case D (New Delhi) $100
12 Return to New York City $70
Total cost for two $4,970


Professor Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Bank:
Address: Mirpur-1, Dhaka-1216, Bangladesh.
Phone: [88 02] 9005257-69
(We are currently in the process of establishing contact with Prof. M. Yunus)

Grameen Bank (contact for India mission in the United States)
Julie Stahl, Program Officer
Phone: 1-202-628-3560 x104

Grameen Bank, India
301, Babukhan Estate
Hyderabad 500 029, A.P., INDIA
Phone: (091)40-23298131/41
Phone/Fax: (091)40-23298161
(Several branches of GB are located through the defined route of the trip. We will establish contact with the specific regions of Tangail, Munshiganj and Rangpur).



Architecture and Empowerment: people, shelter and livable cities.
- Reaching the poorest: The rural world, Bangladesh
- The Grameen Bank Housing Programme, India
Edited by Ismail Serageldin/foreword by Muhammed Yunus
Academy Editions, April 1997

Grameen Bank: Experiences & Reflections
Yunus, Muhammad:. Grameen Trust: Dhaka, 1998.

Poverty By 2015- We Can Actually Make It Happen;
Delivered at the Commonwealth Institute
Yunus, Muhammad, Halving. Grameen Bank: Dhaka, 2003.
-Larance, Lisa Young. Building Social Capital from the Centre: A Village-level Investigation of the Grameen Bank. PRPA-Grameen Trust:Dhaka, 2002.

Sustainable Banking with the Poor: A Case Study of Grameen Bank
Hashemi, Syed M. and Schuler, Sidney Ruth..
PRPA-Grameen Trust:Dhaka, 2002. p.55.

Practice of Everyday life,
Michel de Certeau
University of California Press - 1984

Websites > Grameen India

Documentary references

Underground – Emir Kusturica 1995
Lisbon Story – Wim Wenders 1994
Sans soleil – Chris Marker 1983

Case Studies Comparative Chart
Fig. 1:: Case Studies Comparative Chart

in the world
Fig. 2: Map of the Grameen Bank: in the world

Fig. 3: Map of the Itinerary