The winners of the RIBA International Awards, presented by the Royal Institute of British Architects to architectural projects all over the world that stand out for their design excellence and social impact, were announced on 26 January. The RIBA International Emerging Architect 2021 was awarded to Hooba Design Group for the Kohan Ceram Central Office Building in Iran, while the principal award, RIBA International Prize 2021, goes to Friendship Hospital designed by architect Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury and his studio URBANA in Bangladesh.
Odile Decq, who chaired the international jury of the RIBA prize, described Friendship Hospital as a "celebration of a building dedicated to humans". It is a building designed with a human touch, deftly integrated with its surroundings, celebrating traditional local materials and building techniques even while addressing critical global challenges such as unequal access to medical services and the devastating impact of climate change on particularly fragile communities. The French architect also emphasised that Friendship Hospital may be viewed as a practical demonstration of how good design can produce beautiful architecture even in difficult circumstances and with a relatively modest budget.
The hospital designed by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA was built in southwestern Bangladesh, in the water-laden landscape of the Bengal, and it is a building perfectly incarnating the mission of the philanthropic NGO for which it was built. The low-cost construction is built to last in order to continue providing local communities with essential medical services; it is the only medical facility in an area inhabited by thousands of people, where climate change has required conversion of local production, with shrimp fisheries where there used to be fields of grain.
Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA found themselves working in a fragile environment that has suffered greatly from the effects of climate change and the devastation caused by the big cyclone that hit the coast in 2007. The new hospital is a resilient masonry building responding to the difficult environmental conditions in an innovative way and offering an edifying experience for visitors, patients and medical workers, who are welcomed with a tranquil environment appropriate for a process of healing and care.
Water is an essential part of the project. Rainwater is collected and stored in a tank for reuse. A canal cuts the length of the campus in half, separating the areas for inpatient and outpatient services. Through ordinary evaporation, the canal also helps to naturally cool the campus on hot summer days. The layout of the hospital is arranged around a series of courtyards which bring natural light and ventilation into the wards, offering patients a peaceful, restful place with a view of the natural landscape around them.
Images courtesy of RIBA and URBANA
Project Name: Friendship Hospital, Bangladesh
Architect practice: Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA kashefchowdhury-urbana.com
Date of completion April 2018
Client: Friendship NGO
Project city/town: Shyamnagar, Bangladesh
Internal area: 4,777.00 m²
Contractor company name: Golam Mostofa Limited
Structural Design: Descon Engineers
Electrical Engineering: Independent
Plumbing Design: M/S High Speed Engineers
Sewage Treatment: Sigma Engineers Ltd.
Photo: © Asif Salman courtesy of URBANA