The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced the winner of the world’s best new building – The Friendship Hospital in Bangladesh.
Designed by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA, the hospital will be awarded the RIBA International Prize, the global accolade for design excellence and social impact.
The remote community hospital was commissioned by the NGO Friendship, and provides a medical lifeline for thousands of people from Satkhira, an area of the coast that was heavily affected by a major cyclone in 2007.
“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,” said Architect Kashef Chowdhury.
While announcing the winner of the award, the grand jury described the hospital as embodying an “architecture of humanity” and as an “exemplar of innovative architecture that addresses critical global issues – unequal access to healthcare and the crushing impact of climate breakdown on vulnerable communities.”
The Friendship Hospital is an inspiring example of how architecture, even on a modest budget, can strengthen and empower remote rural areas.
Runa Khan, Founder and Executive Director of the NGO, Friendship said that “having worked with communities most impacted by climate change over the last 20 years, I have seen, time and time again, proof of my belief that ‘the poor cannot afford poor solutions’. Friendship Hospital brings new hope of a better tomorrow to some of the most climate impacted people on this planet.”
Situated in the southern region of Bangladesh, the project faced demanding environmental conditions due to rising sea levels impacted by climate change.
Saltwater has encroached inland, forcing all adjoining agricultural lands to be converted into shrimp cultivation ponds.
The innovative design looks to respond 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 increasingly incessant rains.
This water channel also helps with micro-climatic cooling in the increasingly hot summers.
“Bachelor doctors like me stay in the staff quarters. If we lived in rented houses outside we would have to bathe in salty water and would have to buy our drinking water. Here, because of the water treatment plant, we can use salt-free water,” said Dr. Ruhul Amin, Resident Medical Officer, Friendship Hospital.