World’s best building in Satkhira

The Friendship hospital equipped with the state-of-art facilities is located in Soalia village of Satkhira’s Shyamnagar upazila.
Prothom Alo

The rainwater-harvesting Friendship hospital in Satkhira has been named the best new building in the world, winning the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) international prize 2021.

A model of climate-conscious design built with the bare minimum of resources, the hospital in rural Bangladesh beat off competition from a gallery in Berlin by David Chipperfield, and a cycle and footbridge in Denmark by Wilkinson Eyre, according to a report of The Guardian.

In the waterlogged landscape of south-western Bangladesh, the 80-bed brick-built hospital used water as its chief starting point.

The canal zigzags its way through the hospital, collecting valuable rainwater and helping to cool the surrounding courtyards during the sweltering summer months. It also serves as a barrier between the inpatient and outpatient departments, separating the two sides of the site across shared courtyards, without the need for a dividing wall, the report read.

The biannual RIBA Award aims to recognise the most significant and inspirational projects from around the world, according to the RIBA website.

Architect Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury designed the hospital. A graduate from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), he also won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2019.

Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury

“There is water everywhere here,” said architect Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury, director of Urbana, “But it’s not always the useful kind.” Rising sea levels caused by the climate crisis have meant that the surrounding landscape of grain fields has been transformed into shrimp fisheries, while the groundwater has become too saline to use for most purposes.

In the rainy season, locals do everything they can to collect and store every last drop of fresh water. Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury has therefore designed the building to be a machine for rainwater harvesting, with every roof and courtyard surface draining into the central canal, which runs into two storage tanks at either end of the site.

“When somebody is ill or needs care,” Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury said, “one of the most important things is the mental aspect of it, not just the physical care. I think the kind of spaces you inhabit during treatment – with a view of water and trees, the sounds of birds, the feel of a breeze – goes a long way towards healing.”

According to a Prothom Alo report, the hospital equipped with the state-of-art facilities was built on 2 acres of land at a cost of Tk 140 million in Soalia village of Satkhira’s Shyamnagar upazila. The entire hospital comprising with 20 buildings spreads over 47,772 square feet area.

Odile Decq, chair of the RIBA jury, said the project “embodies an architecture of humanity and protection,” adding that it is “relevant to critical global challenges, such as unequal access to healthcare and the crushing impact of climate breakdown on vulnerable communities.”

On receipt of the prize, Chowdhury said: “I am encouraged that this may inspire more of us to commit 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.”