Image for What went right this week: the world’s ‘best new building’, plus more positive news

What went right this week: the world’s ‘best new building’, plus more positive news

A hospital was declared the world’s best new building, researchers hailed an overlooked ‘wondercrop’, and Native Americans reclaimed ancestral land in California, plus more positive news

A hospital was declared the world’s best new building, researchers hailed an overlooked ‘wondercrop’, and Native Americans reclaimed ancestral land in California, plus more positive news

World's best building
A hospital won a prestigious architecture award

A hospital in rural Bangladesh has been named the world’s best new building. The Friendship Hospital in Satkhira was declared winner of the 2021 RIBA International Prize on Tuesday. Judges praised the structure for putting “care and humanity at the heart of its design”. 

Located in a waterlogged area vulnerable to climate change, the £1.5m hospital is run by Friendship, an NGO, and embodies the spirit of resilience. Architect Kashef Chowdhury designed the building to withstand extreme weather, harvest rainwater and uplift patients. A canal running through the site provides natural cooling.  

“The hospital is very relevant to critical global challenges, such as unequal access to healthcare and the crushing impact of climate breakdown on vulnerable communities,” said RIBA judge Odile Decq.

“It is a demonstration of how beautiful architecture can be achieved through good design when working with a relatively modest budget and with difficult contextual constraints. This hospital is a celebration of a building dedicated to humans.”

Image: Asif Salman/URBANA

An exhibition celebrated survivors of the Holocaust

The quiet beauty of everyday life is captured in a new exhibition made remarkable because those featured in it survived the Holocaust. 

Curated by the Royal Photography Society (RPS), Generations: Portraits of Holocaust Survivors celebrates the legacies of people who forged new lives in the UK after escaping Nazi persecution. It launched at the RPS Gallery in Bristol, England, on Thursday to coincide with International Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

Taken by some of the UK’s leading photographers, the images show survivors hugging grandchildren, playing instruments and celebrating birthdays. 

“Each portrait shows the special connection between the survivor and subsequent generations of their family,” said curator Tracy Marshall-Grant. “It emphasises their important legacy.”

Image: Ben Helfgott MBE with his grandson Sam. Credit: Frederic Aranda

Positive news
Native American tribes reclaimed ancestral land

Returning land to indigenous people is a proven solution to deforestation – and that’s what happened in California this week. There, a swathe of redwood forest was handed back to the descendants of Native American tribes by the conservation organisation Save The Redwoods League. 

The 532-acre forest was a sacred place for indigenous Americans before European colonialists forced them out. Now the land is being handed back, along with the responsibility to conserve it. The forest will also revert to its original name Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ, meaning ‘Fish Run Place’ in the Sinkyone language.

Buffie Schmidt, a descendant of the indigenous Pomo people, said: “As I listen to the wind, I feel like my ancestors – who I’ve never even known in my lifetime – are here and happy that we call this place something that they’re familiar with: Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ.”

Image: Dan Meyers

World's best building
Scientists heralded an underrated ‘wondercrop’

A relative of the banana that grows in the Ethiopian Highlands is a “wondercrop” that could feed millions in a warming world.

That’s according to scientists studying the drought-resistant enset (a “banana on steroids”), which is little known outside of Ethiopia, where people use it to make porridge and bread.

Researchers reckon the relative inaccessibility of the country’s Highlands has prevented enset from being exported and cultivated elsewhere. Locals, reputedly, call it the “tree against hunger”.

A study out this week suggests the crop could live up to its name by helping fight malnutrition elsewhere in Africa. “Enset could make a valuable contribution to food security even under high-emission climate change scenarios,” concluded the authors.

Image: James Borrell/Kew

Good news
Sticking with food security…

The UK could reduce its dependence on food imports by growing more fruit and veg in urban areas, researchers said this week. 

Modelling by Lancaster University revealed that if gardens, parks and other urban areas were freed up for growing, there would be enough new space to meet 40 per cent of the UK’s fruit and vegetables needs. 

The researchers were not suggesting football pitches become cabbage patches, though. “Even if only a small percentage of this area is suitable and available for urban agriculture, it could still represent a significant contribution to national supplies of fresh fruit and veg,” said Dr Lael Walsh, lead author of the study.

The research comes weeks after another study found that UK allotments are almost as productive as regular farms.

Image: Markus Spiske

Positive news
Ovarian cancer rates plummeting in the UK – study

The UK ovarian cancer death rate is plummeting, researchers said this week. Modelling suggests there will be 17 per cent fewer deaths from the disease in 2022, compared with five years ago. 

Those behind the research attribute the falling death rate to oral contraceptives, which have been widely taken in the UK since the 1970s. 

Women who use them for five years or more have about a 50 per cent lower risk of developing ovarian cancer than those who don’t, research has shown. 

Image: Becca Tapert

World's best building - Good news
More disadvantaged students than ever at UK unis

A record number of students from black, Asian and disadvantaged backgrounds in the UK went to university in 2021, according to figures published this week. 

The data shows a 19 per cent year-on-year rise in the number of black students taking places at leading UK universities. It also reveals that 21 per cents of students receiving free school meals were accepted on to a university or college course last year. 

The Universities and College Admissions Service (UCAS), which compiled the figures, said this was the highest rate on record. 

However, the gap in participation rates between people from disadvantaged and privileged backgrounds still widened in 2021, because of a rise in the number of wealthy students going to university.

Image: Muhammad Rizwan

Good news
Plans were announced for ‘fixing factories’ in the UK

The UK’s factories were the engine rooms of the Industrial Revolution, introducing the world to new ways of working, making and consuming. Can two ‘fixing factories’ in London do the same for the burgeoning circular economy? 

Due to open in Camden and Brent this spring, the facilities will produce nothing. Instead their volunteer workforce will repair people’s broken electronics on a pay-what-you-like basis.

It’s all part of a plan to extend the life of electronic items, thus reducing waste and carbon emissions. Those behind the project want to open one on every high street. Read the full Positive News story here.

Image: Restart Project 
Main image: Asif Salman/URBANA

What went right previously