The RIBA International Prize 2021 was won by the “Friendship Hospital”, a low-cost medical institution surrounded by shrimp fisheries in Bengal, in the southwest of Bangladesh, and designed by the local architecture studio Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA for Friendship, a non-governmental organisation that aims to enhance the quality of life of people living in remote rural areas.
The building features a series of low-lying pavilions, made from locally sourced brick, interspersed with courtyards, which naturally light and ventilate the hospital wards and offer to patients and visitors quiet places to rest. The project has split the site with a zigzagging “canal”, which separates the in-patients and out-patients and helps to cool the building. At both ends of the pool of water there are two large tanks used to collect rainwater, which is harvested for use at the hospital.
The French architect Odile Decq, member of the jury, said that the Friendship Hospital was chosen as the winner as it “embodies an architecture of humanity and protection”. The project, added Decq, “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”.
The winning studio’s founder, architect Kashef Chowdhury, said that “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”. The architect says that he’s engouraged “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”.