RIBA International Prize to Bangladesh Community Hospital

A remote community hospital, set in the water-laden landscape of Bengal in southwest Bangladesh, designed by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA, has won the RIBA International Prize 2021, architecture’s highest global accolade for design excellence and social impact.

The Friendship Hospital Satkhira, designed by Kasef Chowdhury/URBANA, is built to serve a rural population in the Bangladesh delta. The community hospital of 80 beds was initiated by a donation of land by a local philanthropist.

The sustainable and low-cost hospital delivers essential healthcare services to the local communities of Satkhira in the southern region of Bangladesh, providing a medical lifeline for thousands of people in an area of the coast that was heavily affected by a major cyclone in 2007. Lauded for the care and humanity at the heart of its design, the building responds innovatively to the challenging environmental conditions of the Bengal, a fragile and dynamic environment, directly impacted, without protection, to rising sea levels.

In a changing context due to rising sea levels, the once surrounding landscape of grain fields has been replaced by shrimp fisheries. The architect makes this surrounding water play a key role in the building with the design of a rainwater-collecting canal landscaping creatively in between the multiple blocks masterplan to separate inpatient and outpatient departments. Rainwater from all areas of the complex is drained and stored in a newly built tank – 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 during the unbearably hot summers, avoiding the need for high energy-consuming air-conditioning.

The technology of the hospital is not emphasised but is hidden in the simplicity and the evidence of the design of its plan. The design of the project effectively transmits a sense of protection to the hospital users with shadow corridors around all the blocks and a series of courtyards providing natural ventilation everywhere and regulating the temperature efficiently.

The construction in bricks built in situ celebrates this ordinary material without having to resort to complex technology leading to increased budgets. Local materials by local craftmanship help the integration of the building to the native culture and society.

Reflecting the NGO’s commitment to lasting social change, Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA’s design creates an uplifting and inviting experience for visitors, patients and healthcare professionals and a peaceful environment consistent with health and healing. A series of intimate courtyards bring light and natural ventilation to the wards, providing spaces for patients and visitors to rest with viewpoints of the natural surroundings. Sensitive areas of the hospital are protected from direct tropical light through shielded corridors and double-layered arches. Built for longevity, the hospital campus is crafted in local brickwork chosen for its resilient qualities and low cost, with openings in the brickwork offering private shaded areas and natural cooling.

The jury found it refreshing to see a hospital with such a human and natural touch. The Friendship Hospital has particular relevancy at this period of time as it addresses the issue of unequal access to healthcare throughout the world, they said.

Odile Decq, Chair of the RIBA International Prize Grand Jury, said: “Friendship Hospital embodies an architecture of humanity and protection that reflects the Friendship NGO’s philanthropic mission to provide dignity and hope to communities through social innovation. Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA has achieved a building designed with a human touch that is deftly integrated with its surroundings and celebrates local, and traditionally crafted materials.

It 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. This hospital is a celebration of a building dedicated to humans.

Chowdhury 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.”

Project Details:

Pictures Courtesy: © Asif Salman/Courtesy of URBANA

Date of completion April 2018

Location Shyamnagar, Bangladesh

Cost £1,516,000

Internal area 4,777 m²

Contractor Golam Mostofa Limited

Structural Engineers Descon Engineers

Electrical Engineer Independent

Plumbing Design M/S High Speed Engineers

Sewage Treatment Sigma Engineers Ltd.