RIBA International Prize 2021: World’s best new buildings revealed


Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

A German art gallery, a vehicle-free bridge in Denmark and a remote hospital in Bangladesh have been shortlisted for a prestigious award recognizing the world’s best new architecture.

Of the three projects, which were selected from 16 finalists in 11 countries, one will be presented with the RIBA International Prize in early 2022.

Honoring buildings or structures that demonstrate “design excellence and social impact,” the prize is organized every two years by the UK’s Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Announcing the shortlist Tuesday, the organization’s president, Simon Allford, said in a press statement that the three projects showed “sensitivity to their surroundings and local cultures, inclusive design, and sustainable solutions.”

The Friendship Hospital, also pictured top, was constructed using low-cost locally made bricks.

The Friendship Hospital, also pictured top, was constructed using low-cost locally made bricks. Credit: Asif Salman/Courtesy of Urbana

The Friendship Hospital in Satkhira, southwestern Bangladesh, was the only shortlisted building located outside Europe. Constructed from locally made bricks, the 80-bed community facility is arranged around a series of shaded courtyards. An angular waterway cuts through the middle of the site, separating the hospital’s inpatient and outpatient wings.

RIBA commended the project for assimilating with the surrounding countryside, adding that the design is intended to withstand the threat of rising water levels in the typhoon-prone region. Eco-friendly design features include tanks for collecting rainwater and wall openings that provide natural ventilation.

“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 community destined to live in the fragile environment of a climate in flux,” said architect Kashef Chowdhury, whose Dhaka-based firm Urbana designed the project, in a press release.

Lille Langebro, a bridge in Copenhagen, is among three finalists for the 2021 RIBA International Prize.

Lille Langebro, a bridge in Copenhagen, is among three finalists for the 2021 RIBA International Prize. Credit: Rasmus Hjortshøj

Elsewhere on the shortlist is Lille Langebro, a curvilinear bridge in Copenhagen designed by WilkinsonEyre with Urban Agency. The 525-foot-long structure spans the Danish capital’s central harbor, offering pedestrians and cyclists a vehicle-free alternative to the parallel road bridge.

Highlighting the project’s “light and slender visual profile,” RIBA also drew attention to the engineering hidden within the flowing design: When larger boats need to pass, the bridge’s two central sections rotate dramatically to form an opening.

The third shortlisted project is James-Simon-Galerie, an art gallery that serves as an entrance and visitor center for Berlin’s Museum Island, a huge cultural complex on the Spree River. Designed by David Chipperfield Architects, the long-awaited building opened in 2019, two decades after it was first proposed.

James-Simon-Galerie, on Berlin's historic Museum Island.

James-Simon-Galerie, on Berlin’s historic Museum Island. Credit: Simon Menges

Built on a narrow strip of land in the historic island, the sleek design offers a contemporary contrast to its significantly older neighbors. RIBA praised how the project “blends the Neoclassical with the modern.”

“The commanding temple-like entrance way, colonnaded walkway that wraps around the building and projects out to the city and lofty interior lobby space is monumental in scale and stature,” the organization wrote in a press release.

Allford said that all three projects are “united by human experience at their heart.” The prize’s jury comprises experts from Europe, the US, Asia and South America, and is chaired by French architect and urban planner Odile Decq.



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