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This Bangladeshi Architect Is Rethinking the Way We Heal

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A canal winds through friendship hospital in Bangladesh, designed by Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury of studio URBANA 

Bangladeshi architect Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury of studio URBANA has turned several old boats into floating hospitals so that the humanitarian group Friendship can reach populated islands in that country’s rivers. Now he has completed his first hospital on land, though water is still very much a feature. A canal zigzags like a lightning bolt through a collection of small buildings that constitute the 80-bed Friendship Hospital in Shyamnagar— a rural area about 200 miles southwest of Dhaka. The canal’s serene beauty was reason enough to build it. (Chowdhury believes that a pleasing 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 surrounding plazas and rooftops that is stored and used for irrigation, and it creates a microclimate, cooling the hospital during the region’s hottest months. The buildings flanking the courtyard, including a 35-foot-high tower that contains potable water from a deep well, are constructed out of bricks made locally, minimizing the hospital’s carbon footprint. In many cases the bricks form large outdoor “windows” that open onto colonnades, recalling 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.” Now Bangladeshi architects are saying the same about him. kashefchowdhury-urbana.com

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