RIBA International Prize Winner Announced

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RIBA International Prize Winner Announced

A remote community hospital, set in the water-laden landscape of the Bengal in south-west Bangladesh, has won the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) International Prize 2021.

Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA has scooped architecture’s highest global accolade for design excellence and social impact for the Friendship Hospital Satkhira.

The sustainable, low-cost hospital delivers essential healthcare services to the local communities of Satkhira, providing a medical lifeline for thousands of people.

Lauded for the care and humanity at the heart of its design, the building responds innovatively to the challenging environmental conditions of the Bengal.

The area is a fragile and dynamic environment, directly impacted, without protection, to rising sea levels.

Working with long-standing NGO client, Friendship, the hospital was commissioned as part of the organisation’s mission to strengthen and empower remote rural areas.

Once surrounded by grain fields, the rising sea water has resulted in this agricultural land being converted into shrimp fisheries.

Water is therefore central to the hospital’s design scheme; a canal cuts through the length of the site, separating the inpatients and outpatients.

Rainwater from all areas of the complex is drained and stored in a newly built tank – an essential resource and tool to prevent water logging as the saline groundwater is unusable for most practical purposes and draining is needed from increasingly incessant rains.

This water channel also helps with micro climatic cooling during the unbearably hot summers, avoiding the need for high energy consuming air-conditioning.

Reflecting the NGO’s commitment to lasting social change, the design creates an uplifting and inviting experience for visitors, patients and healthcare professionals and a peaceful environment consistent with health and healing.

A series of intimate courtyards bring light and natural ventilation to the wards, providing spaces for patients and visitors to rest with viewpoints of the natural surroundings.

Sensitive areas of the hospital are protected from direct tropical light through shielded corridors and double-layered arches.

Built for longevity, the hospital campus is crafted in local brickwork chosen for its resilient qualities and low cost, with openings in the brickwork offering private shaded areas and natural cooling.

Odile Decq, Chair of the RIBA International Prize Grand Jury, said: “Friendship Hospital embodies an architecture of humanity and protection that reflects the Friendship NGO’s philanthropic mission to provide dignity and hope to communities through social innovation.

“Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA has achieved a building designed with a human touch which is deftly integrated with its surroundings and celebrates local, and traditional crafted materials.”

RIBA President Simon Allford said: “Friendship Hospital is an exemplar of thoughtful and creative design of a building of great importance and scale, built within a modest budget, and crafted with the local community and its natural surroundings in mind.

“Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA has created innovative, clear, refined, economical and delightful architecture with social impact - providing essential healthcare services in the rural area and addressing the increasing effects of the climate emergency.”

Photograph by Asif Salman Courtesy of URBANA