RIBA International Prize 2021 - James Simon Galerie Germany David Chipperfield Architects Berlin photograph by Simon Menges
© Simon Menges

Three exceptional architecture projects from around the globe were revealed on the 16th of November 2021 as this year shortlist projects for the RIBA International Prize by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The prestigious biennial award celebrates projects that demonstrate design excellence and social impact. The shortlisted projects in contention for the world’s best new building are:

  • Friendship Hospital, Satkhira, Bangladesh, by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA
    A remote community hospital set in the fragile watery landscape of the Bengal, built to
    withstand the ravages of climate change
  • James-Simon-Galerie, Berlin, Germany, by David Chipperfield Architects Berlin
    A classically inspired entrance building and visitor centre for the world leading cultural
    destination and Unesco World Heritage Site, Museum Island
  • Lille Langebro, Copenhagen, Denmark by WilkinsonEyre and Urban Agency
    Technically innovative new cyclist and pedestrian bridge that elegantly slides open and
    revitalises Copenhagen harbour

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. 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.

– RIBA President Simon Allford

The three buildings have been selected following a rigorous judging process from a long list of 16 exceptional new projects in 11 countries. The winner of the RIBA International Prize and the RIBA International Emerging Architect Prize, which celebrates the future talent of the profession, will be announced in early 2022.

The shortlist will be judged by a distinguished Grand Jury chaired by world-renowned multidisciplinary French architect and urban planner Odile Decq. The jury members are Es Devlin OBE, 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 Brazilian Gustavo Utrabo, winner of the 2018 RIBA International Prize and Emerging Architect Prize.

Friendship Hospital

RIBA International Prize 2021 - Friendship Hospital Satkhira Bangladesh Kashef Chowdhury URBANA photograph by Asif Salman Courtesy of URBANA
© Asif Salman
RIBA International Prize 2021 - Friendship Hospital Satkhira Bangladesh Kashef Chowdhury URBANA drawing courtesy of Kashef Chowdhury URBANA
Courtesy of Kashef Chowdhury URBANA

Situated in a largely rural area of southwest Bangladesh heavily affected by a major cyclone a few years ago, this eighty-bed community hospital provides much-needed healthcare for the local population. Blending into the surrounding water-laden landscape, the low-cost building is designed to work with and withstand the threat of rising water levels due to climate breakdown.

The hospital is arranged around a series of intimate courtyards, which bring in light and natural ventilation. A canal of water cuts through the length of the site, separating the inpatients and outpatients while collecting rainwater stored in tanks – a valuable resource in an area where the saline groundwater is unusable for most practical purposes. This outdoor space creates intimate areas for patients and visitors to sit and rest with viewpoints of the local countryside.
Crafted in local brick chosen for its resilient qualities and low cost, openings in the brickwork offer private shaded areas and provide natural cooling for the wards essential for this hot climate.

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.

– Kashef Chowdhury, Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA


James Simon Galerie Germany David Chipperfield Architects Berlin photograph by Ute Zscharnt
© Ute Zscharnt
James Simon Galerie Germany David Chipperfield Architects Berlin drawing courtesy of David Chipperfield Architects
Courtesy of David Chipperfield Architects

Museum Island, Berlin, is one of the most significant cultural sites in the world, attracting millions of visitors each year. A Unesco World Heritage Site, the James-Simon-Galerie serves as the new entrance building to Museum Island, providing both a new public space for the city and access to the other museums that are situated there, including the Pergamon Museum, the Altes Museum, and the refurbished, Chipperfield designed Neues Museum. The building is named after James Simon, one of the city’s most important art patrons in the early 20th century.

The building has been twenty years in the making and is the latest development in Museum Island’s master plan by the practice. The challenging design brief required a new building that would respond sensitively to its historical context while offering a contemporary museum experience within a narrow strip of land on the island. The architects have created a design that blends the Neoclassical with the modern. The commanding temple-like entranceway, 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 main visitor facilities lie within the subterranean spaces of the building, including an exquisitely crafted 300-seat auditorium and temporary exhibition gallery. This lower floor of the Galerie leads to an underground walkway through which visitors can access the surrounding museums.

We are honoured and grateful that the James-Simon-Galerie has been shortlisted by the jury for the RIBA International Prize. Our work on the museum island began more than twenty 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.

– David Chipperfield, David Chipperfield Architects


Lille Langebro

RIBA International Prize 2021 - Lille Langebro Denmark WilkinsonEyre photograph by Rasmus Hjortshoj
© Rasmus Hjortshoj
RIBA International Prize 2021 - Lille Langebro Denmark WilkinsonEyre drawing courtesy of WilkinsonEyre
Courtesy of WilkinsonEyre

Enhancing Copenhagen’s waterfront and its reputation as the world’s best city for cycling, the Lille Langebro cycle and pedestrian bridge, which sits alongside the highly trafficked Langebro bridge, offers a safe and accessible crossing for the thousands of cyclists and pedestrians that cross the canal every day, connecting the city center and the historic district of Christianshavn.

At 160m long, the bridge follows a gently curved path across the water, giving the bridge a light and slender visual profile that allows views across the harbor. The surrounding structural supports create two giant wings on either side of the deck, and along with the pier, arms are painted in dark grey to blend in with the water. At the center of the bridge, two rotating sections swing open vertically, allowing marine traffic to pass through. The mechanism is buried within the bridge’s piers and opening structure to not interrupt the continuous sweeped line across the water. This is the first time this engineering approach has been used in swinging bridge design, breaking new ground in the field.

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. We are delighted the project is now recognised by the RIBA International Awards and hope the design makes a lasting contribution to its delightful setting.

– Jim Eyre, Founding Director at WilkinsonEyre