Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2016 Winner: Friendship Centre Gaibandha, Bangladesh

Architect: Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury/URBANA – Client: Friendship NGO

Project Gallery

 

Project description

The centre is a training facility for the NGO Friendship, which works with communities living in the rural flatlands of northern Bangladesh. In this region permanent buildings are conventionally raised 2.4m off the ground, to mitigate flooding, but the budget did not allow that here. Instead, an earthen embankment was built around the site, with stairs leading down into the building from open ends. Adopting the vocabulary of a walled town, the programme is organised around a series of pavilions that look inwards onto courtyards and reflecting pools. Because of the embankment wall, there is no horizontal light, so in essence the centre is top-lit. This connection, between an architecture of the land and the light coming down from above, makes for a very elemental building.

The plan is cruciform. Circulation runs lengthwise down the centre, connecting the two external stairs, while the two parts of the programme bisect the site in the other direction – the ‘Ka’ block contains the more public spaces, such as teaching rooms and offices, and the ‘Kha’ block, the more private accommodation. Between the two blocks are large tanks for
collecting rainwater. The landscaping is in two planes – at grade, brick paving in all the circulation areas and courtyards; and above, earthen rooftops with green cover, which act as insulators and absorb the rain.

Traditional brick masonry is used in a modernist idiom. The bricks were sorted for size, shape and colour by the site engineers, who kept only three out of every ten bricks produced by the local kiln. Of these, only the most aesthetically pleasing were used to create the exposed brick finish, while the remainder were incorporated into the foundations and other unseen parts of the building. In parts, the structure is reinforced with concrete, as this is a seismic zone.

Monolithic, a seamless continuity of material in harmony with its surroundings, the Friendship Centre embodies what Louis Kahn described as an ‘architecture of the land’.

 

Jury citation

“Looking at the sunken brick compound of the Friendship Centre, one is reminded of the archaeological remains of the nearby Vasu Bihara Buddhist temple, built during the third and fourth century. The Friendship Centre blurs the boundaries between an archaeological site and an architectural and landscape project. Through its configuration and its use of grassed rooftops it becomes part and parcel of the surrounding landscape. This grounding is both literal and metaphorical. The quadrilateral layout and the skilful brickwork reflect continuity with local architectural traditions.”

“The integrative design approach is registered in every aspect of the project, and at every scale. The imbrication of outdoor and indoor spaces, together with the treatment of the roofscape, make this an unusual and innovative building. With its spaces sunk into the ground and the vegetation growing on its roofs, the compound blends beautifully into the natural surroundings. Its relationship to the landscape and to history and archaeology is remarkable in every way.”

“An attention to detail, to the human scale, is expressed in the simplicity of the well-designed furniture, in the creation of a series of small pavilions and reflecting pools, and in the landscaping elements. All help to create a friendly atmosphere, supporting the building’s function of empowering a marginalised rural community living on a
precarious flood plain.”

“While every aspect of this project is local – local inspiration, local builders, local materials, local architect, local NGO – its architectural value and qualities are undeniably universal and merit both appreciation and attention.”

 

About Kashef Chowdhury – www.kashefchowdhury -urbana.com

The son of a civil engineer, Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury graduated in architecture from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) in 1995. He established the practice URBANA in partnership in 1995 and, from 2004, has continued as the sole principal of the firm. He has a studio-based practice whose works find root in history with a strong emphasis on climate, materials and context – both natural and human. Projects in the studio are given extended time for research so as to reach a high level of innovation and original expression. Works range from the conversion of a ship and low-cost raised settlements in “chars” to a training centre, mosque, art gallery, museum, residences and multi-family housing, as well as corporate head offices.

Kashef Chowdhury teaches both at home and abroad. In 2006, he attended a Glenn Murcutt masterclass in Sydney, Australia. He also takes an active interest in art and has worked as a professional photographer. Chowdury has designed and published three books: Around Dhaka, 2004; Plot Number Fifty Six, 2009 and The Night of Fifteen November, 2011 – a photographic and recorded account of some survivors of Cyclone Sidr in the coastal areas of Bangladesh.

 

Project Data

Built area 3,053 m2
Cost 900,000 USD
Commission May 2008
Design May 2008 – December 2010
Construction December 2010 – December 2011
Completion December 2011

 

Aga Khan Award for Architecture Website

www.akdn.org/architecture

 

2016 Winners

 

2016 Nominated Projects

makoko_022 Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 19): Makoko Floating School, Lagos, Nigeria - The Floating School is a prototype structure whose main aim is to generate an alternative building system and urban culture for the populations of Africa’s coastal regions. The triangular A-frame or pyramid
AKTC / Habibeh Madjdabadi Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 18): 40 Knots House, Tehran, Iran - Creating a small and low budget apartment building in Tehran does not leave much space for creativity, yet an architect can try to do something with the material, textures, outer envelope and light.
AKTC / Hassan Saifuddin Chandan Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 17): Bait Ur Rouf Mosque, Dhaka, Bangladesh - In an increasingly dense neighbourhood of Dhaka, the Bait Ur Rouf Mosque was raised on a plinth on a site axis creating a 13-degree angle with the qibla direction, which called for creativity with the layout.
AKTC / Cemal Emden Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 16): Bunateka Libraries, various locations, Kosovo - A series of public libraries for disadvantaged youth in rural areas. “The idea is that books are a source of knowledge just like water is the source of life,” says the architect.
AKAA / AREP / Didier Boy de la Tour Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 15): Casa-Port New Railway Station, Casablanca, Morocco - Casa-Port railway station (French: Gare de Casa-Port) is a "Moroccan National Railway" station in the centre of Casablanca. This transport hub, designed to anticipate 25 million passenger trips-per-year in the future
Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2016 Shortlisted Project: Ceuta Public Library, Spain Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 14): Ceuta Public Library, Spain - Ceuta, is a small Spanish enclave city on the Moroccan soil. The site of the Ceuta library is located on the original Marinid dynasty's archaeological area...The excavation ground was included in the interior space of the public building, and the architects
Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2016 Shortlisted Project: Doha Tower, Doha, Qatar Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 13): Doha Tower, Doha, Qatar - It is a cylindrical volume that measures 45m in diameter. The steel and concrete structure follows a diamond shaped grid that bends along the virtual surface of the cylinder. The façade uses a double skin system. The exterior skin is composed
Friendship Centre, Gaibandha, Bangladesh Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 12): Friendship Centre, Bangladesh - The Friendship Centre in Gaibandha, Bangladesh, was built for the local NGO Friendship, which provides services for poor citizens of the region. Built by Dhaka-based architect Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury, it was designed
Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2016 Shortlisted Project Guelmim School of Technology, Morocco Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 11): Guelmim School of Technology, Morocco - Situated in Guelmim, Morocco, 200 kilometres south of Agadir and known as the “door of the Sahara”, the School was conceived in line with a policy of decentralisation and making education more accessible to those living in remote areas.
Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, Beirut, Lebanon Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 10): Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, Beirut, Lebanon - The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) building at the American University of Beirut (AUB) advances the university’s academic mission in the 21st century
National Library_033 Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 9): King Fahad National Library, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - The King Fahad National Library is one of the most important cultural buildings in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was completed and went into use for its intended purpose in November 2013.
Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 8): Manouchehri House, Textile Centre & Boutique Hotel, Kashan, Iran Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 8): Manouchehri House, Textile Centre & Boutique Hotel, Kashan, Iran - The Manouchehri House is a boutique hotel and textile centre situated in Kashan’s historic residential neighborhood, in the province of Isfahan. The project entailed the restoration of a 19th century merchant home
Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 7): Micro Yuan'er - Hutong/courtyard Renovation, Beijing, China Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 7): Micro Yuan’er – Hutong/courtyard Renovation, Beijing, China - Micro Yuan'er is a project by zhang ke’s Beijing-based standardarchitecture, which revitalizes a historic hutong courtyard. The inserted structure, which contains a miniature art space and library
Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 6): Restoration of Nasrid Tower, Almeria, Spain Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 6): Restoration of Nasrid Tower, Almeria, Spain - This project by Castillo Miras Arquitectos explores the dichotomy between the solid, ageless construction of the existing 13th century Nasrid Tower, and the provisional, light, and degradable nature of the contemporary.
Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 5): New Power Station - Baku, Azerbaijan Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 5): New Power Station – Baku, Azerbaijan - The Power Station is located on a natural harbor in the Bay of Baku, which used to serve as a small shipyard for the ships working for the oil platforms. The original brief asked the architects to demolish the old
Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 4): Royal Academy for Nature Conservation - Ajloun Forest Reserve, Jordan Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 4): Royal Academy for Nature Conservation – Ajloun Forest Reserve, Jordan - Royal Academy for Nature Conservation in Ajloun Forest Reserve of Jordan is “the first centre in the Arab world” specialised in offering training on nature conservation.
Superkilen - Public Park - Copenhagen, Denmark Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 3): Superkilen – Public Park – Copenhagen, Denmark - Superkilen is a public park in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen, Denmark. A public space promoting integration across lines of ethnicity, religion and culture. A meeting place for residents of Denmark
Tabiat - Pedestrian Bridge - Tehran, Iran Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 2): Tabiat – Pedestrian Bridge – Tehran, Iran - Tabiat Bridge, literally: “Nature Bridge” is the largest pedestrian overpass built in Tehran, Iran. The architects first conceived the two-to-three level, 270-metre-long curved pedestrian bridge of varying width
Thread - Artists Residency & Cultural Center - Senegal Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 1): Thread – Artists Residency & Cultural Center – Senegal - Thread is a socio-cultural centre that houses two artists’ dwellings and studio space for local and international artists. An ecologically sensitive meeting place which demonstrates how art and architecture can be part of rural life

 

Researched & Compiled by Arif Ali

 

Author: Arif Ali

Arif lives miles away from the crowded city of Chicago. He has interest in technology, spirituality, religion, psychology and community. Find him somewhat engaged on Twitter.

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