From the Collection to the Contemporary

Exploring excellence in global architecture over four areas: healthcare, cultural heritage, social cohesion and urban infrastructure.

By Royal Institute of British Architects

This narrative is based on the shortlist for the RIBA International Prize and some of the RIBA International Award for Excellence 2021 Winners.

International Award winner 2018Royal Institute of British Architects

Acknowledging Excellence in Architecture

This story explores international case studies that demonstrate the transformative nature of architecture and the potential contribution to both its users and the physical context. 

In 2021, three exceptional projects were shortlisted for the RIBA International Prize: Friendship Hospital in Satkhira, Bangladesh by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA; the James-Simon-Galerie in Berlin, Germany by David Chipperfield Architects Berlin; and Lille Langebro in Copenhagen, Denmark by WilkinsonEyre with Urban Agency. This story takes inspiration from these, alongside two projects that were awarded the RIBA International Award for Excellence 2021:  Lianzhou Museum of Photography, Guangdong, Modern Art Museum and its Walkways, Shanghai, China. These are presented alongside historic examples from the RIBA Collections.

Friendship Hospital (2020) by Architects: Kashef Chowdhury/URBANARoyal Institute of British Architects

Sense of place

Architecture can be as much about context and the surrounding area of a building as the exclusive characteristics of a building and its key architectural features. Together, they make a building unique and meaningful for its users.

Friendship Hospital (2020) by Architects: Kashef Chowdhury/URBANARoyal Institute of British Architects

Friendship Hospital, Satkhira, Bangladesh

Nestled amongst the riverine Bengal landscape, this hospital blends naturally into its rural setting and integrates itself sympathetically with the surrounding village. Serving a wide catchment area mostly from a rural low-income population, this community hospital was constructed with a small budget, nevertheless it works successfully with efficient and rational use of space.

Friendship Hospital (2020) by Architects: Kashef Chowdhury/URBANARoyal Institute of British Architects

"...a sustainable and affordable blueprint"

Designed by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA together they arranged the buildings to create a sequence of intimate courtyards to bring in ample light and provide opportunities for patients to view the surrounding natural environment. There are many places for patients to sit and contemplate nature, creating a space that is both uplifting and calming. The craftmanship and use of local bricks and detailing is kept simple making it easy to maintain.

Friendship Hospital (2020) by Architects: Kashef Chowdhury/URBANARoyal Institute of British Architects

This facility is sustainable and healthy in both its design and choice of materials. The ‘canal’ feature crosses the site separating outpatients from the main hospital areas. It also collects usable rainwater and provides micro-climatic cooling. This approach tackles the prevailing environmental issues and risk of flooding and provides drinking water. Deep shaded corridors and openings in the brickwork are to protect the interior spaces from the hot climate whilst at the same time encouraging ventilation. 

Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (2009) by Architect: Louis Isidore Kahn (1901-1974)Royal Institute of British Architects

Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, India

The exposed brick architecture that forms the campus for the Indian Institute of Management, designed by Louis Kahn is another example of efficient spatial planning. Kahn collaborated with the Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi, along with a group of ambitious industrialists, and together they created one of the most exclusive and influential business schools in the world.

Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (1974/1974) by Architect: Louis Isidore Kahn (1901-1974)Royal Institute of British Architects

Their ambition was not only to create a site for learning, but to consider the structure of the education system as more informal, collaborative, and cross-disciplinary. An important element of this was to ensure the classrooms were not the only spaces for education. The plazas and corridors became as important, offering places for exchange and learning.

National Assembly Building, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka. (2000) by Architect: Louis Isidore Kahn (1901-1974)Royal Institute of British Architects

National Assembly Building, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Certain features and techniques were similar to Kahn's approach to the design of the National Assembly Building in Bangladesh. He again incorporated local materials: brick and concrete, and extracted large geometric shapes throughout the façade of the building that nod to the Indian vernacular architecture. A large lake also surrounds the complex. 

National Assembly Building, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka. (2000) by Architect: Louis Isidore Kahn (1901-1974)Royal Institute of British Architects

The large extractions are positioned to act as light wells and provide a natural cooling system to protect the interior from the Indian climate. The shapes are also aesthetic, based on abstracted patterns found within the Indian culture. This shows Kahn’s approach of blending traditional culture with modern architecture.  

James-Simon-Galerie (2020) by Architect: David Chipperfield Architects BerlinRoyal Institute of British Architects

Cultural Heritage - bridging the old with the new

Architecture is a product of the culture and time it is designed for, creating spaces that support the people who use them both now and for the future. Architects must also respond to the surrounding architecture and observe how it sits alongside buildings from other time periods. This does not need to be a pastiche, but must complement both in scale, and material, as well as be relevant to the time.

Berlin Museuminsel

A complex of individual museums of outstanding historical and artistic importance. It is located in the heart of the city, on the site where Berlin was founded eight centuries ago. Across five museums (Altes Museum, Neues Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, Bode Museum and the Pergamonmuseum), they house unique collections of art and cultural artefacts. Since 1999 the site became part of the UNESCO World Heritage. 

Altes Museum, Berlin by Architect: Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841)Royal Institute of British Architects

Altes Museum - Neoclassical monument

The five buildings on this site were built between 1824 and 1930. The Altes Museum, located opposite the original place and next to the cathedral, was the first to be constructed, from 1823 to 1830 to designs by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The monumental façade, with its arrangement of eighteen Ionic fluted columns, is typical of the Neoclassical  architecture of the time.

Topographical drawing of the Altes Museum, Berlin (1865) by Architect: Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841)Royal Institute of British Architects

Other Neoclassical features include the expansive atrium and sweeping steps to the entrance and an elegant rotunda, modelled on the Pantheon in Rome. In 1828 Friedrich Wilhelm III dedicated this museum 'to the study of all antiquities and the free arts' so cultural artefacts from Europe and the wider Mediterranean region could be appreciated by all.

Entrance at the East Side, Neues Museum, Musuemsinsel Berlin (1843/2009) by Friedrich August Stüler / David ChipperfieldNeues Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Neues Museum

The second building of the Museumsinsel Berlin was designed by Friedrich August Stüler, a student of Schinkel, and built from 1843 to 1855. The building was severely damaged during the Second World War. It was left abandoned and structurally unstable, with entire sections missing, until in 1997 David Chipperfield Architects won the international competition for the rebuilding of the Neues Museum in collaboration with Julian Harrap.

Main Stairs with historical plaster casts, Neues Museum, Museum Island Berlin (1843/2009) by Friedrich August Stüler / David Chipperfield a.o.Neues Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

This image was taken after the renovations were complete. Missing structural elements were reconstructed and any gaps were filled in without competing with the existing structure.  Formed from the same concrete elements, the new main staircase repeats the original without replicating it, its volume preserved, but without the original ornamentation.

Main Stairs, Neues Museum, Berlin, 1910 (1843/1855) by Friedrich August Stüler a.o.Neues Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Here is the same main staircase, taken in 1910.    The renovation work fully respected the historical structure and the original sequence of rooms was restored to create continuity with the existing framework. 

James-Simon-Galerie (2020) by Architect: David Chipperfield Architects BerlinRoyal Institute of British Architects

James-Simon-Galerie, Berlin, Germany

A new addition to the complex is the James-Simon-Galerie, by David Chipperfield Architects Berlin, situated between the Neues Museum and the Kupfergraben canal. 

"The James-Simon-Galerie is not a quotation of a past to which it does not belong, but a modern structure for which the historical is not alien but vividly present... a temple of accessibility, woven into its setting and using architectural motifs already present on Berlin’s Museum Island."

James-Simon-Galerie (2020) by Architect: David Chipperfield Architects BerlinRoyal Institute of British Architects

The James-Simon-Galerie is the first new building on the Island in almost 100 years, completing the ensemble of five museums. It is situated to the rear of the Neues Museum and to the south of the Pergamon. The master plan for Museum Island set out a framework for developing a modern museum complex while preserving the unique historical characteristics of the site. The new building acts as the visitor's front door to the Island. 

The architectural language adopts existing elements of the Museum Island, responding to the monumental neoclassical style primarily from the exterior. It Integrates colonnades and outdoor staircases, making reference to Schinkel and Stüler’s earlier museums, but in a less authoritarian manner. 

James-Simon-Galerie (2020) by Architect: David Chipperfield Architects BerlinRoyal Institute of British Architects

"A building of great poise and stillness"

As the new gateway to the island, the James-Simon-Galerie can welcome large numbers of visitors, as well as housing a temporary exhibition space and an auditorium. The elegant exterior and interior provide sheltered routes and promenades connecting both the main museum buildings and the interior spaces. Its form is designed to both frame and link the outside and inside spaces.

Lille Langebro (2020) by Architect: WilkinsonEyre with Urban AgencyRoyal Institute of British Architects

Aesthetic urban infrastructure

Bridges come in all shapes and sizes, with varying functions and forms. Bridges can have enormous presence, as they sculpturally span the stretch of water connecting one part of the city with another. The functionality is not simply urban infrastructure above the water but it’s design must be inclusive and functional on water as well as adjoining land. Their form must also aesthetically compliment the landscape.

Facades of the 17th and early 18th century town houses, Nyhavn, Copenhagen (1953) by Photographer: David MeddRoyal Institute of British Architects

Copenhagen - City of Culture, Canals and Bicycles

Copenhagen, the Danish capital and cultural centre of Denmark.  These colourful brick fronted 17th century houses are located by the canal in the district of Nyhavn and are characteristically connected to the Scandinavian architecture of Copenhagen. 

The canal was built to connect Kongens Nytorv to the harbour. The area was originally a busy commercial port, where travellers would dock from all over the world. The district became popular with creatives, especially writers and is famous for being the place in which Hans Christian Anderson lived and wrote some of his fairytales.

Cykelslagen bicycle bridge, Copenhagen (2015) by Architect: Dissing & WeitlingRoyal Institute of British Architects

A city known for its canals and cycle paths, the waterways around Copenhagen allow a different perspective of the city, whilst the flat landscape allows an easy ride around the streets. Associated with being one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, its cycle path is 256 miles in length. Over half of the residents of the city commute by bicycle.

Kalvebod Waves, Copenhagen (2014) by Architect: JDS ArchitectsRoyal Institute of British Architects

Kalvebod Waves, Copenhagen

A pier rather than a bridge, the Kalvebod Waves offers an extension to the waterfront in that part of the city. An area originally dedicated to industry and business it is now transformed to an accessible and public recreational space with a network of different  spaces for leisure and recreation. Its configuration allows users to fully benefit from the position of the sun and the different levels initiate different uses of the space in a way that is not prescribed.

Lille Langebro (2020) by Architect: WilkinsonEyre with Urban AgencyRoyal Institute of British Architects

Lille Langebro, Copenhagen, Denmark

With an emphasis on access, the bridge designed by WilkinsonEyre with Urban Agency is aimed exclusively at cyclists and pedestrians with vehicles using the adjacent bridge. This provides an infrastructure that supports the cycle and pedestrian culture of the city as well as provide excellent views across the harbour. The surrounding area of Langebro has recently been revitalised to provide public space and encourage social interactions with the cityscape, and the bridge helps connect these two new spaces making it easier and safer to move across the water.

Lille Langebro (2020) by Architect: WilkinsonEyre with Urban AgencyRoyal Institute of British Architects

"the bridge is an example of thoughtful placemaking"

Located in the active harbour the bridge had to allow for boats to pass and this has been achieved without compromising inclusivity but incorporates cutting-edge design with unique technical solutions. Visually the function of Lille Langebro as a swing bridge remains entirely concealed and the focus is on the elegant linear design. The opening of the bridge is predicted to happen approximately 200 times a year, providing the city a unique spectacle.  

Lille Langebro (2020) by Architect: WilkinsonEyre with Urban AgencyRoyal Institute of British Architects

Instead of relying on a raised structure with steep gradients to allow all boats to pass underneath, the bridge has two rotating central sections instead to allow larger boats to pass through. This ensures that a shallow gradient is possible. The rotating sections open in unison. Its efficient design response, works with gravity, rather than lifting, which in effect uses minimal energy to operate. 

Lianzhou Museum of Photography (2020) by Architect: O-office Architects/Jianxiang He & Ying JiangRoyal Institute of British Architects

Architectural Conversions

With the rapid development of cities, many industrial sites have been abandoned. Architecturally, however, they offer solid buildings, steeped in culture and heritage. They provide great opportunities for transformation into cultural sites with more diverse functions and a wider community. The next two examples from China are RIBA International Award for Excellence 2021 winners and show examples of redundant industrial sites being converted for community and culture.

Lianzhou Museum of Photography (2020) by Architect: O-office Architects/Jianxiang He & Ying JiangRoyal Institute of British Architects

Lianzhou Museum of Photography, Guangdong, China

The new museum was built on the site of the local sugar mill, and part of a regeneration programme within the traditional downtown of Lianzhou, a remote city of northern Guangdong in South China. The project is publicly funded and originated from an annual photography exhibition. Its response provides economic, social and cultural benefits combining contemporary art and local culture, and a home for both artists and the general public.

Lianzhou Museum of Photography (2020) by Architect: O-office Architects/Jianxiang He & Ying JiangRoyal Institute of British Architects

"creating dialogues with the old city ..."

The complex provides not only a new art centre, but a generous civic place for people to meet. The ground floor, which is accessible to the public, flows from the city street and directs visitors to the galleries and theatre via semi-outdoor stairs and hallways. Large windows look out onto the neighbourhood, providing a contrast to the openness of the gallery and the and the dense fabric of the historic streetscape.

Lianzhou Museum of Photography (2020) by Architect: O-office Architects/Jianxiang He & Ying JiangRoyal Institute of British Architects

Local workers completed the entire construction using both modern construction and traditional craftsmanship, and integrating the materials from the old city within the interior and exterior. A reinforced concrete structural warehouse was refurbished. This sits at the heart and encased around it a new U-shape structure provides access to different levels. The new courtyard links the two buildings, balancing and bringing together the different users to the space: art, community and culture. The complex’s folded roof canopy was built with largely recycled local stone and building materials.

Modern Art Museum and its Walkways (2016) by Architect: Atelier DeshausRoyal Institute of British Architects

Modern Art Museum, Shanghai, China

The project is another example of how an industrial landmark can revitalise an area. The Modern Art Museum is based on a site in the semi-demolished remains of the 100-year-old Laobaidu Coal Docker. Located within the industrial area of the Huangpu River front in Shanghai, it operated until the 1980s. Today the area is made up of economically diverse community and the Museum provides a unique facility for all to enjoy. 

Modern Art Museum and its Walkways (2016) by Architect: Atelier DeshausRoyal Institute of British Architects

Originally the brief was to demolish the industrial building and build a new gallery, however the architects, Atelier Deshaus turned environmental and budgetary constraints into design opportunities with real social value. The industrial ground floor lobby opens onto the river with a designated public dining hall hosting local film nights, concerts and fairs. The spaces outside provide opportunities in which people can come together, extending the museum outside beyond the building. 

Modern Art Museum and its Walkways (2016) by Architect: Atelier DeshausRoyal Institute of British Architects

Atelier Deshaus worked with the retained structures, hanging and cantilevering the new steel construction from them. They were able to complete the building within the allocated time, whilst avoiding any environmental impact implicit in demolition and reconstruction. Extending out  within the newly landscaped riverfront are the high-level public walkways, which penetrate the building at multiple levels, following the old coal shoot runs.

Tate Gallery, Albert Dock, Liverpool: the foyer (1988) by Architect: Jesse Hartley (1780-1860); James Stirling Michael Wilford & AssociatesRoyal Institute of British Architects

Tate, Liverpool, UK

On another scale and in a different country is the Tate Galleries in the UK. Both the site in Liverpool and the Tate Modern utilise old industrial buildings as spaces for contemporary art and engagement for culture. 

In the 1980s the derelict Albert Dock in Liverpool underwent regeneration, transforming disused warehouses. The dock was once a bustling site and port for the North of England, with rich cargos from Asia trading tea, silk, tobacco and spirits. One warehouse was selected to be an art gallery, dedicated to showing modern art and engaging younger visitors to visit.

Tate Gallery, Albert Dock, Liverpool: the foyer (1988) by Architect: Jesse Hartley (1780-1860); James Stirling Michael Wilford & AssociatesRoyal Institute of British Architects

James Stirling with his architectural partner Michael Wilford designed the new Tate Gallery at Liverpool. Their designs preserved the exterior keeping the brick and stone exterior and the colonnade of sturdy Doric columns. The interior was however transformed into a configuration of simple galleries suitable for the display of modern art. It opened to the public in May 1988.

Bankside Power Station, now Tate Modern, Southwark, seen from St Paul's Walk, City of London (1995) by Architect: Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960); Mott Hay & AndersonRoyal Institute of British Architects

Tate Modern, London, UK

The former Bankside Power Station was originally built in two phases between 1947 and 1963. Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott it is a prominent feature on the south bankside of the Thames, across the River from St Pauls Cathedral, 35 metres high and 152 metres metres long, with a boiler house alongside and a single central chimney. The site had been largely redundant since 1981 after years of supplying electricity to the City and to part of the borough of Southwark.

Tate Modern, Bankside, London: the Turbine Hall (2007) by Architect: Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960); Herzog & de MeuronRoyal Institute of British Architects

In 1994 the site was chosen by Tate as a new home to contemporary art collection. The Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron were appointed to convert the power station into an international destination for visitors to engage and explore the collections. The expansive space of the turbine hall is a main feature of the building and an area in which site specific commissions are installed, allowing visitors to gather and interact  with the artwork in an informal and relaxed way. 

To find out more about the shortlist for the RIBA International Prize 2021 and other RIBA International Award for Excellence 2021 winners you can visit architecture.com and see the many outstanding examples of architecture acknowledged by the RIBA.

Credits: Story

Explore more from RIBA Collections here. 
The images from the International Award shortlist are provided by the practice. 

With courtesy of the architectural practices:

RIBA International Prize 2021 shortlist:
Friendship Hospital, Satkhira by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA - © Asif Salman/Courtesy of URBANA
James-Simon-Galerie by David Chipperfield Architects Berlin - © Simon Menges
Lille Langebro by WilkinsonEyre with Urban Agency - Photo credit © Rasmus Hjortshøj


RIBA International Award for Excellence 2021
Lianzhou Museum of Photography by O-office Architects/Jianxiang He & Ying Jiang - © Chao Zhang
Modern Art Museum and its Walkways by Atelier Deshaus - © TIAN Fangfang

All other images are from RIBA Collections unless listed. 
  

Children Village by Rosenbaum + Aleph Zero. Image rights: © Leonardo Finotti


Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Rights: Eric Firley / RIBA Collections Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad: the dormitories. Rights: ORCH / RIBA Collections National Assembly Building, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka. Rights: ORCH / RIBA Collections
KalvebodWaves, Copenhagen. Rights: Joanne Underhill / RIBA Collections
Cykelslagen bicycle bridge, Copenhagen. Rights: Joanne Underhill / RIBA Collections
Tate Modern, Bankside, London: the Turbine Hall. Rights: Peter Scaife / RIBA Collections

Tate Gallery, Albert Dock, Liverpool: the foyer Rights: Alastair Hunter / RIBA Collections
Bankside Power Station, now Tate Modern, Southwark, seen from St Paul's Walk,
City of London. Rights: Janet Hall / RIBA Collections

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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