Local non-profit organisation Friendship Luxembourg has announced that a rural hospital in Bangladesh, funded by Luxembourgish donors and Luxembourg's development cooperation programme, has been named the world's "best new building" by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
Friendship Hospital Shyamnagar, a brick construction located in the coastal region of Bangladesh, recently won the RIBA 2021 award for the “best new building” in the world. Last July, the building had already been shortlisted alongside sixteen other candidates from eleven different countries.
The construction of this hospital buidling was mainly financed by Luxembourg's development cooperation programme and the private donors of Friendship Luxembourg.
Friendship Hospital Shyamnagar offers polyclinic-type outpatient services and is equipped with a high-level medical analysis laboratory, three operating rooms and currently 50 beds and a neonatology unit. The hospital is designed to offer quality health care to populations who would otherwise largely lack such care. Like Friendship's hospital ships, Friendship Hospital Shyamnagar operates on the basis of a combination of a permanent local medical team and specialised medical missions by volunteer doctors from various countries.
From an architectural point of view, the hospital stands out in particular for the way in which it collects rainwater as a natural resource and preserves it using a zigzag channel that crosses it. In the coastal district of Satkhira, "there is water everywhere, but it is not always useful", lead architect Kashef Chowdhury told one British newspaper. "Sea level rise caused by global warming has transformed the surrounding landscape from grain fields to flooded areas, making groundwater too saline to be used for normal purposes".
The building's open structure maximises air circulation, providing natural ventilation and sunlight, thus reducing electricity requirements. At the same time, it is designed to provide patients with a soothing sensory environment for healing. “When someone is sick or needs care, one of the most important things is the mental aspect, not just the physical care. I think the kind of space you inhabit during treatment – with the view of the water and the trees, the sound of the birds, the feeling of the breeze – greatly contributes to healing", explained the architect.
Friendship is a social purpose organisation that strives to bring essential services to isolated communities and in particular those directly impacted by the climate crisis. Commissioned in 2018, Friendship Hospital Shyamnagar is the non-profit's first "land-based" hospital since the organisation started its activities in 2002 with a floating hospital on the Brahmaputra River before extending its activities to education, the reduction of poverty, adaptation to climate change and access to rights and emancipation, among others.