Meet the 2021 RIBA International Prize shortlist

The 2021 RIBA International Prize shortlist has been announced, featuring standout buildings in Bangladesh, Germany and Denmark 

Lille Langbro by WilkinsonEyre and Urban Agency
Lille Langbro by WilkinsonEyre and Urban Agency.
(Image credit: Photography: Rasmus Hjortshøj)

The 2021 RIBA International Prize shortlist has been unveiled – following the celebration of the 2021 RIBA International Awards for Excellence winners' announcement earlier in the year, from which the shortlist is drawn – and anticipation is set to build ahead of the big reveal of the grand overall winner, to follow soon. The biannual award has a strong emphasis on both design excellence and social impact, bringing together a variety of considerations for the jury panel, which consists of architects and creative professionals including Odile Decq (who acts as the chair), Es Devlin, Jeanne Gang, Rosanna Hu and Gustavo Utrabo.

The shortlist comprises just three, exquisite but very different buildings – a hospital in Satkhira, Bangladesh, a bridge in Copenhagen, and a gallery in Berlin. ‘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,' says RIBA president Simon Allford. Join us, as we explore each one below. 

2021 RIBA International Prize shortlist

Friendship Hospital by Kashef Chowdhury/Urbana, Bangladesh

Friendship Hospital, Kashef Chowdhury-URBANA in Bangladesh, featured in the 2021 RIBA International Prize Shortlist

courtesy of Urbana 

(Image credit: Photography: Asif Salman)

This community hospital provides healthcare for an area that was recently heavily affected by a cyclone. The sprawling 80-bed facility is arranged as a little family of smaller volumes, which are united by outside spaces, such as courtyards and shaded colonnades. The elegant brick buildings are complemented by water features and green landscaping – while rainwater is also stored in tanks to reuse. ‘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,' says Urbana's head, Kashef Chowdhury. 

James-Simon-Galerie by David Chipperfield Architects, Germany

James Simon Galerie, David Chipperfield Architects in Germany, featured in the 2021 RIBA International Prize Shortlist

(Image credit: Photography: Simon Menges)

In 2019, Berlin’s Museum Island on the River Spree welcomed a new addition – the James-Simon-Galerie designed by David Chipperfield Architects. The new building serves as a visitors’ centre for all five museums on the island, providing direct access to the Pergamon Museum (home to such treasures as the Ishtar Gate and the Pergamon Altar) and the Neues Museum (home to the Egyptian collection, including that iconic bust of Queen Nefertiti). The primary function of the James-Simon-Galerie, explains Urs Vogt, Chipperfield’s project architect, ‘is to take the load of mass tourism’ and accommodate a projected peak of 10,000 visitors per day. Its other function is as a 24/7 public space. Hence, the architects pushed the technical functions of the building down into the basement, leaving the top as a ‘landscape, which connects views from the city to the island and back the other way’. Additional writing: Sophie Lovell

Lille Langebro by WilkinsonEyre, Denmark

Lille Langebro, WilkinsonEyre in Denmark, featured in the 2021 RIBA International Prize Shortlist

(Image credit: Photography: Rasmus Hjortshøj)

In a city partly defined by water and where cycling and pedestrians are given as much attention as cars (if not more – Copenhagen boasts a reputation for being the world’s best city for cycling), pedestrian bridges are critical to circulation. This new example, dedicated to both people and bicycles, sits next to the busy Langebro car bridge and provides much-needed safe and accessible crossing, transforming daily lives through its very existence. Its lithe body also includes two cleverly rotating sections that swing open vertically to allow marine traffic through when required. ‘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,' says Jim Eyre, founding director at WilkinsonEyre.


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).