Aga Khan Awards Five in Architecture for Middle East and Muslim World

Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 2013, Salam Center, Austrian Muslim Cemetery, Tabriz Bazaar, Hassan II Bridge Rabat-Sale, Morocco, Birzeit Historic Center, Palestine,

President of Portugal Aníbal Cavaco Silva and the Aga Khan presented this year’s Aga Khan Awards for Architecture at the Castle of São Jorge in Lisbon on Friday.

The agencies of the awards are private, international, non-denominational development organisations. They work to improve the welfare and prospects of people in the developing world, particularly in Asia and Africa, without regard to faith, origin or gender. They put a large focus on architecture in the Middle East, and we are always happy to report on good projects up for awards, and also to report on those that win.

The projects were selected for this year’s awards based not only on their fine architecture, but also their overall benefit to humanity. Three of the five winning projects are based in the Middle East, while the other two – a hospital in Sudan and a cemetery in Austria – have connections to the Muslim World.

Here are the winners – in no particular order:

1. Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery, Khartoum, Sudan

Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 2013, Salam Center, Austrian Muslim Cemetery, Tabriz Bazaar, Hassan II Bridge Rabat-Sale, Morocco, Birzeit Historic Center, Palestine,

A 63 bed hospital in Khartoum originally constructed in 1994 has wooed this year’s Aga Khan Award for Architecture jury. In addition to serving 5.4 million patients in its lifetime, this facility makes an enormous environmental contribution by using natural light and ventilation and incorporating solar panels in order to generate clean energy. The project also recycled 90 20 foot shipping containers that had been used to transport construction materials.

2. Revitalization of the Birzeit Historic Center, Birzeit, Palestine

Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 2013, Salam Center, Austrian Muslim Cemetery, Tabriz Bazaar, Hassan II Bridge Rabat-Sale, Morocco, Birzeit Historic Center, Palestine,

A five year plan launched by the Riwaq Center for Architectural Conservation aims to rehabilitation as many as 50 Palestinian villages. Already Birzeit, which had suffered from years of neglect, has been transformed into a thriving community again. The Master Jury noted that this project healed not only economic and physical wounds, but also social and political. This project is “focusing on towns and villages in the area under Palestinian civil authority – where an estimated 50 percent of the surviving historic structures are located and where most Palestinians live.” Riwaq noted that it realized it could best preserve local heritage in this region with the “greatest significant socio-economic impact.”

3. Rabat-Salé Urban Infrastructure Project, Morocco

Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 2013, Salam Center, Austrian Muslim Cemetery, Tabriz Bazaar, Hassan II Bridge Rabat-Sale, Morocco, Birzeit Historic Center, Palestine,

More than just a new link between Rabat and Salé, the Hassan II Bridge in Morocco is part of a grander urban regeneration plan that prioritizes mobility and public transportation but also includes infrastructure developments and urban planning for the future. The Master Jury called the project “a sophisticated and cohesive model for future infrastructure projects, especially in places of rapid urbanisation.”

4. Rehabilitation of Tabriz Bazaar, Tabriz, Iran 

Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 2013, Salam Center, Austrian Muslim Cemetery, Tabriz Bazaar, Hassan II Bridge Rabat-Sale, Morocco, Birzeit Historic Center, Palestine,

First constructed during the 10th century, the historic Tabriz Bazaar that spans 27 hectares and contains nearly six kilometers of bazaars is absolutely pivotal to the city’s identity. However, time had taken its toll and the complex was badly in need of work. But instead of just receiving donations from aid organizations or outsiders, the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation (ICHTO) worked with bazaar owners and the municipality to map out a restoration program. After the pilot project was completed, the bazaar community came to understand the project’s importance so well that their contribution increased from just 15 percent to a full 90 percent of the overall costs. The government funded 85 percent of the pilot. The Master Jury found that the project was “a remarkable example of stakeholder coordination and cooperation to restore and revitalise a unique structure.”

5. Islamic Cemetery, Altach, Austria

Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 2013, Salam Center, Austrian Muslim Cemetery, Tabriz Bazaar, Hassan II Bridge Rabat-Sale, Morocco, Birzeit Historic Center, Palestine,

Instead of sending their kin back home to be buried, Muslims in this Austrian community got together to build a beautiful cemetery in accordance with their religious and spiritual values. The 8,400 square foot facility designed by Bernardo Bader blends simplicity and reverence for nature, although the materials used are not necessarily the most environmentally-friendly. Comprised of roseate concrete walls, five staggered, rectangular gravesite enclosures, and a structure housing assembly and prayer rooms, the project was commended for “the wish of an immigrant community seeking to create a space that fulfils their spiritual aspirations and, at the same time, responds to the context of their adopted country.”

All images courtesy of Aga Khan Award for Architecture

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