A remote hospital in an area of Bangladesh vulnerable to rising sea levels has been named the world’s best new building.
The Friendship Hospital in Satkhira, a cyclone-prone district in the country’s south, was announced winner of 2021’s prestigious RIBA International Prize on Tuesday, with its architects praised for putting “care and humanity at the heart of its design.”
Constructed from locally-made bricks, the 80-bed hospital was built around a series of courtyards lined with tranquil, shaded walkways. An angular canal cuts through the center of the site to separate inpatient and outpatient wings.
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), which organizes the award, commended the hospital’s design for blending in with the surrounding countryside and creating an “uplifting and inviting experience for visitors, patients and healthcare professionals.”
Designed by architect Kashef Chowdhury and his Dhaka-based firm, Urbana, the hospital was commissioned by sustainable development NGO, Friendship. Chowdhury described the jury’s decision to honor a project from the “global periphery” as a “sublimely important moment.”
“I am encouraged that this may inspire more of us to commit, not in spite of, but because of limitations of resources and means, to an architecture of care both for humanity and for nature, to rise collectively to the urgencies that we face today on a planetary scale,” he said in a press statement.
Held every two years, the prize honors buildings or structures that “demonstrate design excellence and social impact.” In a press release announcing the winner, RIBA noted that the Friendship Hospital was built in a “fragile and dynamic environment,” where grain fields have been converted into shrimp farms due to rising sea levels.
As such, the hospital incorporates several sustainable design features. The way the courtyards are arranged encourages natural ventilation and eliminates the need for air conditioning. The architects also created a drainage system that channels rainwater from around the complex into a storage tank for future use and to prevent waterlogging.
The prize’s jury comprised experts from Europe, the US, Asia and South America, and was chaired by French architect and urban planner Odile Decq. In a press statement, Decq said that the hospital “is relevant to critical global challenges, such as unequal access to healthcare and the crushing impact of climate breakdown on vulnerable communities.”
“It is a demonstration of how beautiful architecture can be achieved through good design when working with a relatively modest budget and with difficult contextual constraints,” she added.
Selected from 16 finalists in 11 countries, the hospital was one of three projects shortlisted for the award. The shortlist included two European projects: James-Simon-Galerie, an art gallery on Berlin’s Museum Island, and Lille Langebro, a 525-foot-long vehicle-free bridge in the Danish capital, Copenhagen.
The biennial prize, delayed a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, was last awarded in 2018, when a school in rural Brazil was named the world’s best new building.
A second award was also announced Tuesday, with Iran’s Hooba Design Group winning the RIBA International Emerging Architect award for an “innovative” brick office building in Tehran.