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Bangladesh hospital wins RIBA International Prize 2021 for the world’s best new building

We have named Friendship Hospital in Bangladesh designed by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA as winner of the RIBA International Prize 2021

26 January 2022

Winner of the RIBA International Prize: Friendship Hospital by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA © Asif Salman

  • The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has named Friendship Hospital in Bangladesh designed by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA as winner of the RIBA International Prize 2021
  • The RIBA International Emerging Architect 2021 is awarded to Hooba Design Group for the Kohan Ceram Central Office Building in Iran
  • The prestigious biennial awards celebrate projects from around the world that demonstrate design excellence and social impact
  • Highlight photography and video content can be viewed here. For more details please contact

A remote community hospital, set in the water-laden landscape of the Bengal in south-west 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 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.

Working with long-standing NGO client, Friendship, the hospital was commissioned as part of the organisation’s mission to strengthen and empower remote rural areas. Once surrounded by grain fields, the rising sea water has resulted in this agricultural land being converted into shrimp fisheries. Water is therefore central to the hospital’s design scheme; a canal cuts through the length of the site, separating the inpatients and outpatients. Rainwater from all areas of the complex is drained and stored in a newly built tank - an essential resource and tool to prevent water logging 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.

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.

Winner of the RIBA International Prize: Friendship Hospital by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA © Asif Salman

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 which is deftly integrated with its surroundings and celebrates local, and traditional crafted materials. The hospital is relevant to critical global challenges, such as unequal access to healthcare and the crushing impact of climate breakdown on vulnerable communities. 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.”

RIBA President Simon Allford said:

“Friendship Hospital is an exemplar of thoughtful and creative design of a building of great importance and scale, built within a modest budget, and crafted with the local community and its natural surroundings in mind. Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA has created innovative, clear, refined, economical and delightful architecture with social impact - providing essential healthcare services in the rural area and addressing the increasing effects of the climate emergency. I am delighted that it is being celebrated as the International Prize 2021 winner.”

Kashef 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. I am incredibly grateful to our client Friendship, and their founder Runa Khan for their unending support and understanding, and to the many architects, engineers and consultants who have been with us through the rigorous quarter century of our commitment to society, culture and our most beloved nature.”

Runa Khan, Founder and Executive Director of Friendship said:

“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. 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.

With the interplay of light, clay, air and water, Friendship Hospital Shyamnagar comes more alive in beauty with the purpose it serves. It brings new hope of a better tomorrow to some of the most climate impacted people on this planet.”

Friendship Hospital was selected as the winner of the RIBA International Prize 2021 from a selection of three outstanding shortlisted entries.

The winning project was judged by a distinguished Grand Jury chaired by world-renowned multidisciplinary French architect and urban planner, Odile Decq. The jury members are: Es Devlin CBE, acclaimed British artist and designer, Jeanne Gang, American architect and founder of Studio Gang with offices in the USA and Paris, Rossana Hu, architect and founding Partner of Neri&Hu based in Shanghai, China and Gustavo Utrabo, Brazilian architect and winner of the 2018 RIBA International Prize and named the 2018 International Emerging Architect.

Winner of the RIBA International Emerging Architect: Kohan Ceram Central Office Building by Hooba Design © Parham Taghioff

RIBA International Emerging Architect 2021 winner

Hooba Design Group has won the RIBA International Emerging Architect 2021 for The Kohan Ceram Central Office Building, an office building with an internal and external structure built with a unique perforated brick. The biennial prize celebrates the design innovators of tomorrow.

Situated alongside the Sattari highway in Tehran, the architect’s innovative approach to the single use of brick, stretches the creative possibilities of the material to create a homogenous and harmonising structure that divides the busy motorway and the residential neighbourhood. Manufactured by Kohan Ceram factory, the ‘spectacled brick’ is produced in three different forms with glass, filled, or empty, effectively regulating the building’s temperature and light supply in the dry heat of Tehran, whilst creating an exterior spectacle of light at night. Vegetation planted within voids inside the building filters the polluted air from the main road.

Denise Bennetts, Chair of the RIBA Awards Group, said:

“The judges were impressed by how the practice’s Kohan Ceram Central Office Building successfully addresses a number of key criteria and responds with an architecture of restraint, invention and elegance. Working with an existing structure and collaborating with the client, Hooba Design Group developed an environmentally considered ‘Spectacled Brick’ building which stands out like a glowing beacon on a grey city corner.

The decision to use a single material to create both the external and internal structure results in an intriguing ambiguity about what is solid and what is void; creating different perceptions during day and night. In the dry and polluted climate of Tehran, the building is minimal and cohesive, utilising the facade’s voids to provide light, ventilation and space for vegetation to grow. An uplifting and inspiring design, this project as well as the Hooba Design Group’s collaborative approach to innovation, qualifies them as a worthy recipient of the RIBA International Emerging Architect 2021.”


Notes to Editors

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  3. Media partners for the Awards

a. Dezeen is the professional media partner for the RIBA International Prize.

b. Wallpaper* Magazine is the lifestyle media partner for the RIBA International Prize.

c. ArchDaily is the global media partner.

  1. The RIBA International Awards 2023 opens for entries on Thursday 19 May 2022 and closes on Friday 29 July 2022.
  2. For more information on the RIBA International Awards and previous winners visit here.
  3. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a global professional membership body that serves its members and society in order to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities and a sustainable environment.
  4. Follow RIBA on social media

a. 1. Twitter: @RIBA

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d. 4. Social media hashtag: #RIBAIntAwards

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