Rural hospital in Bangladesh named world's best building by RIBA

The Friendship Hospital in Bangladesh by local architecture studio Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA has been awarded the RIBA International Prize 2021.

The hospital is the latest winner of the RIBA International Prize, which is awarded biennially to a project "that demonstrates design excellence and social impact".

Brick hospital in Bangladesh
Friendship Hospital by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA has won the RIBA International Prize 2021

The Friendship Hospital is a low-cost and remote medical institution in Bengal, southwest Bangladesh, which provides healthcare services for thousands of people living in the region.

It was created by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA for Friendship, a non-governmental organisation that exists to empower people living in remote rural areas.

Aerial photo of Friendship Hospital by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA
The rural hospital in Bangladesh is surrounded by shrimp fisheries

Surrounded by shrimp fisheries, the building is composed of a series of low-lying pavilions that are made from locally sourced brick and interspersed with courtyards.

These courtyards are used to naturally light and ventilate the hospital wards while also offering patients and visitors places to rest.

Brick pavilion at the Friendship Hospital
The hospital is composed of a series of low-lying pavilions

The more sensitive areas of the hospital are screened by corridors and double-layered arches, shielding them from the tropical sun.

Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA has bisected the site with a zigzagging "canal", which separates the inpatients and outpatients while helping to cool the building.

Friendship Hospital by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA
Each building is crafted from locally sourced bricks

At either end of this pool of water are two large tanks used to collect rainwater, which is stored and harvested for use at the hospital while preventing waterlogging on the site.

Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA and Friendship also recently collaborated on the design of the Friendship Centre in Bangladesh, which comprises a similar labyrinth of brick walls and courtyards.

Brick hospital in Bangladesh
A "canal" zigzags through the complex

Friendship Hospital was selected as the winner from a shortlist of three projects, which included James-Simon-Galerie by David Chipperfield Architects and Lille Langebro by WilkinsonEyre and Urban Agency.

The jury for this year's RIBA International Prize was headed up by French architect Odile Decq and included British designer Es Devlin and Studio Gang's founder Jeanne Gang, alongside Neri&Hu co-founder Rossana Hu and Gustavo Utrabo, the Brazilian architect who won the RIBA International Emerging Architect 2018 prize.

Corridor at Friendship Hospital in Bangladesh
The sensitive parts of the hospital are sheltered by corridors

Decq said that the Friendship Hospital was chosen as the winner as it "embodies an architecture of humanity and protection".

"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," added Decq.

"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. This hospital is a celebration of a building dedicated to humans."

Canal through the Friendship Hospital by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA
The water feature collects rainwater

The winning studio's founder, architect Kashef Chowdhury, said that he hopes the prize will encourage more "architecture of care both for humanity and for nature".

"In a sublimely important moment, RIBA and the jurors have identified a project from the global periphery to bring to the centre of architectural discourse and be the subject of one of the most important global awards," Chowdhury reflected.

"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."

Friendship Hospita canal
The water is harvested for use at the hospital

As part of the same award programme, Tehran studio Hooba Design Group has been awarded the prize of RIBA International Emerging Architect 2021. The prize, which "celebrates the design innovators of tomorrow", was given to the studio in recognition of the Kohan Ceram Central Office Building that it designed in Iran.

Kohan Ceram Central Office Building is distinguished by its bright terracotta-coloured facade that is composed of bricks with glass inserts.

Chair of the RIBA Awards Group Denise Bennetts described the building as having "an architecture of restraint, invention and elegance".

"An uplifting and inspiring design, this project as well as the Hooba Design Group’s collaborative approach to innovation, qualifies them as a worthy recipient of the RIBA International Emerging Architect 2021," Bennetts added.

Brick facade of the Kohan Ceram Central Office Building
Hooba Design Group won the RIBA International Emerging Architect 2021 prize for the Kohan Ceram Central Office Building. Photo is by Deed Studio

The RIBA International Prize was launched in 2015 in replacement of the former Lubetkin Prize. Dezeen is a media partner for the event.

Among the previous winners of the prize was Grafton Architects for its Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología in Peru and the Children Village in Brazil by Aleph Zero and Rosenbaum.

The announcement of the 2021 winners follows the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize award programme and the Royal Gold Medal for 2022. This year, the prizes were awarded to Grafton Architects for the Kingston University London – Town House and Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi respectively.

The photography is by Asif Salman courtesy of Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA, unless stated.

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