This Bangladeshi architect is rethinking the way we heal

A canal winds through the Friendship Hospital in Bangladesh, designed by Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury of studio URBANA

Bangladeshi architect Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury of the URBANA studio has transformed several old boats into floating hospitals so that the humanitarian group Friendship can reach the islands populated by the rivers of this country. Now he has completed his first hospital on earth, although the water is still very present. A canal zigzags like lightning through a cluster of small buildings that make up the 80-bed Friendship Hospital in Shyamnagar, a rural area about 200 miles southwest of Dhaka. The serene beauty of the canal was reason enough to build it. (Chowdhury believes that a pleasant environment facilitates healing.) But the canal – a dividing line between the hospital’s inpatient and outpatient facilities – serves several practical purposes: it collects rainwater from plazas and surrounding roofs which is stored and used for irrigation, and it creates a microclimate, cooling the hospital during the region’s hottest months. Buildings flanking the courtyard, including a 35-foot-tall tower that holds potable water from a deep well, are constructed from locally made bricks, minimizing the hospital’s carbon footprint. In many cases, the bricks form large exterior “windows” that open into colonnades, reminiscent of the work of the great Louis Kahn, particularly his National Assembly building in Dhaka. Chowdhury, who went to architecture school in Dhaka, calls Kahn “my guru”. Today, Bangladeshi architects say the same of him.

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