Kashef Chowdhury scoops RIBA’s international prize from Chipperfield and Wilkinson Eyre
Bangladeshi architect Kashef Chowdhury has beaten David Chipperfield and Wilkinson Eyre to land the RIBA’s International Prize for the “best new building in the world”.
His Friendship Hospital in Satkhira, south-western Bangladesh, designed with his practice Urbana, was praised by the jury for embodying an “architecture of humanity” and being an “exemplar of innovative architecture”.
They added that the remote community hospital “addresses critical global issues - unequal access to healthcare and the crushing impact of climate breakdown on vulnerable communities”.
It was chosen from a 2021 shortlist of three that was announced in November: David Chipperfield Architects’ £120m James Simon Galerie in Berlin and Wilkinson Eyre’s Lille Langebro cycle and pedestrian bridge in Copenhagen.
NGO Friendship commissioned the hospital to provide a medical lifeline for thousands of people from Satkhira, an area heavily affected by a major cyclone in 2007.
Chowdhury, the son of a civil engineer who was born in Dhaka, said: “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.
”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.”
Runa Khan, founder and executive director of Friendship, said: “Friendship Hospital brings new hope of a better tomorrow to some of the most climate-impacted people on this planet.”
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The project, completed with a modest budget, faced demanding environmental conditions because of rising sea levels caused by climate change. Saltwater has encroached further inland, forcing all adjoining agricultural lands to be converted into shrimp cultivation ponds.
Chowdhury’s design responds to these conditions by incorporating a canal that collects rainwater - an essential resource and tool to prevent waterlogging as the saline groundwater is unusable for most practical purposes and draining is needed from intensifying rains. The water channel also helps with micro-climatic cooling in the increasingly hot summers.
The RIBA’s best new building award is given for design excellence and social impact.