After selecting three outstanding projects for the 2021 shortlist of its prestigious International Prize in November, the Royal Institute of British Architects has now revealed this year's best new building: Friendship Hospital in Satkhira, Bangladesh by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA.
The rural hospital is one of several firm projects in the country commissioned by a nonprofit group called Friendship that looks to empower underdeveloped communities in different regions of the country through hands-on social innovation and collaboration. The hospital provides the village of Satkhira, which has been heavily impacted by rising sea levels related to climate change. The village has particularly bad agricultural problems related to the rising waters, which the project was also able to address through the introduction of a new stormwater drainage system that simultaneously produces valuable drinking water and serves in the much-needed area of flood relief.
The jury cited the project as a steadfast example of what it called the “architecture of humanity” as well 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.” RIBA President Simon Alford said it was “innovative, clear, refined, economical and delightful” and pointed to its ability to “provide essential healthcare services in the rural area and address the increasing effects of the climate emergency” as deciding factors in the five-member jury’s selection process.
“In a sublimely important moment, RIBA and the jurors have identified a project from the global periphery to bring to the center of architectural discourse and be the subject of one of the most important global awards,” Chowdhury said of the jury’s decision. “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.”
The hospital joins the Children’s Village by Rosenbaum + Aleph Zero and Grafton Architects’ Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología campus as past winners of the biannual award. Friendship’s founder and Executive Director Runa Khan had high praise for its architect, whom he credits with having worked brilliantly and within a confined budget to create one of the most inspiring pieces of infrastructure in the history of the country.
“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’! Working with Kashef was a joy for us,” he said. “Someone who could efficiently use local materials, ensure efficiency of the work we were to deliver and keep the spirit of Friendship alive, and not ever compromise on quality either for himself or for the spirit we wanted it to be. Truly for me, he was the architect who could bring this — in his design, his care and delivery. It brings new hope of a better tomorrow to some of the most climate impacted people on this planet.”
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