by Devanshi ShahMay 16, 2021
On November 16, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announced its shortlist of three projects for the prestigious RIBA International Prize 2021 - a biennial award conferred upon innovative global projects that display exceptional standards of design prowess and social impact. Open to projects by qualified architects from all across the world, the RIBA International Awards honour architectural design endeavours of any scale or type. The nominees were evaluated by a panel of esteemed judges, from a long list of 16 projects in 11 countries, constituting the winners of this year’s RIBA International Awards for Excellence.
This year’s Grand Jury featured acclaimed professionals such as British artist and designer Es Devlin OBE, American architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang, Rossana Hu - founding Partner of Shanghai-based firm Neri&Hu, and Brazilian architect Gustavo Utrabo, winner of the 2018 RIBA International Prize and Emerging Architect Prize. Multidisciplinary French architect and urban planner, Odile Decq, has been chosen to head the panel. Commenting on the announcement in an official release, RIBA President Simon Allford shares, “Situated in a range of locations with various purposes, from a communal hospital in Bangladesh to an innovative cyclist and pedestrian bridge in Denmark, these projects are united by human experience at their heart.” The three projects in question are:
1. Friendship Hospital by Kashef Chowdhury/ URBANA - Satkhira, Bangladesh
An 80-bed community hospital in a fairly remote area of southwestern Bangladesh, this project is a low-cost endeavour in tackling the threats of rising water levels due to climate change. Considering how the region was recently ravaged by a cyclone, addressing this challenge was imperative to the complex’s design, which was developed to work with and withstand the issues posed by the region’s riverine landscape. Composed of geometric forms and colonnades crafted in exposed brick, arranged around a sequence of intimate courtyards, the structure’s ample shaded spaces permit natural cooling and ventilation for the hospital’s wards.
Segregating the inpatient wing from that of the outpatients is a canal of water, which functions as a collection ground for rainwater while also providing spaces for patients and visitors to relax and admire the sprawling beauty of the countryside. In a press release, Kashef Chowdhury of Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA, relays about being honoured in the shortlist: "It is indeed a great moment when a recognition as important as this helps to bring attention to a remote corner of our incredibly connected but unknowing world, to a project born out of scarce resources, for the care of people and the community destined to live in the fragile environment of a climate in flux.”
2. James-Simon-Galerie by David Chipperfield Architects - Berlin, Germany
Serving as the new entrance and visitor centre for Berlin’s Museum Island area - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - the new James-Simon-Galerie by London-based David Chipperfield Architects is an extension of the neoclassical-style of the museums in its vicinity, reinterpreted in a modern vein. Named for one of the city’s most prominent 20th century art patrons, it was envisioned as a new public space that also had to serve as a common link for the Pergamon Museum, the Altes Museum, and the refurbished, Chipperfield-designed Neues Museum. In this vein, the building had to satisfy the demands of a complex brief, necessitating a structure that would feel at home within its historical context and accommodate a contemporary museum experience. Along a narrow strip of land, the building’s monumental Roman temple-esque entrance, flowing colonnades, and lofty interior lobby, address these challenges in every respect - channelling a delicate yet light and classical materiality. Much of the building’s functional program is housed within its subterranean spaces, which host a 300-seater auditorium and a temporary gallery for exhibitions, along with underground paths to each of the museums on the island.
Architect David Chipperfield says in a press statement, "Our work on the museum island began more than 20 years ago with the reconstruction of the Neues Museum and the development of the museum island masterplan. The James-Simon-Galerie evolved out of this long collaboration that engaged us deeply, not only in the museological, architectural and civic opportunities and challenges of the museum island but also in the complex considerations and debate concerning the reconstruction of Berlin after the reunification of Germany.”
3. Lille Langebro by WilkinsonEyre and Urban Agency - Copenhagen, Denmark
Connecting the area of Christianshavn with the historic core of Copenhagen, Denmark, the Lille Langebro cycle and pedestrian bridge adopts a slender curving profile alongside the busy Langebro bridge, affording views of the harbour and waterfront for passers-by. The bridge employs structural supports that form two giant wings on both sides of the 160m long deck, with pier arms painted in dark shades of grey to merge into the canal’s waters. Embedded within the structure’s piers, a pair of rotating sections at the bridge’s centre swing away vertically to permit marine traffic to move through its span - breaking new ground in the domain of swinging bridge design. In an official release, Founding Director at WilkinsonEyre, Jim Eyre says, “Lille Langebro has proved to be a popular project with Copenhagers whether on two feet or two wheels; I think it has fully justified the vision and commitment of our client Realdania.”
According to RIBA, projects that the jury were unable to visit due to pandemic-induced travel restrictions will be included in the shortlisting stage for the next edition of the design awards. The winner of the RIBA International Prize is set to be announced in early 2022 alongside the winner of the RIBA Emerging Architect Prize 2021 - with the two awards collectively honouring professionals currently paving the way for the future of the architectural profession. RIBA President Simon Allford concludes, “I look forward to seeing which scheme is selected by our esteemed panel of judges to be named the RIBA International Prize winner. Our global architecture awards champion buildings that change the world and positively impact the community around them - and these three exemplars certainly deliver. Collectively they demonstrate sensitivity to their surroundings and local cultures, inclusive design, and sustainable solutions, and set a high bar for architectural excellence around the world.”