The Aga Khan Award for Architecture not only rewards architects, but also identifies municipalities, builders, clients and other stakeholders who have played important roles in the realisation of a project.
The Aga Khan Award for Architecture was established by the Aga Khan in 1977 to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of communities in which Muslims have a significant presence. The Aga Khan Award for Architecture was established by the Aga Khan in 1977 to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of communities in which Muslims have a significant presence.
The Award recognises examples of architectural excellence in the fields of contemporary design, social housing, community improvement and development, historic preservation, reuse and area conservation, as well as landscape design and improvement of the environment. Since the Award was launched 42 years ago, 122 projects have received the award and more than 9,000 building projects have been documented.The winners of the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture were announced during the last week of August. The winners, who will share US$ 1 million between them, are recognised for works done in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Palestine, Russian Federation and Senegal.
Revitalisation of MuharraqMuharraq, BahrainPatron: Sheikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, Manama, Bahrain Project Director:
Noura Al Sayeh, Manama, Bahrain The pearling industry was historically crucial to Bahrain’s economy, with the former capital Muharraq as its global centre. Following the development of cultured pearls in the 1930s, the town went into decline and Manama rose to become capital through oil wealth. Muharraq’s indigenous population was largely replaced by migrant workers, mostly single males sharing rented accommodation.
Initiated as a series of restoration and adaptive reuse of a number of edifices under the Sheikh Ebrahim Centre for Culture and Research, the project evolved into a comprehensive programme entitled Pearling Path, Testimony of an Island Economy involving various architects, planners and researchers. The project both highlights the town’s pearling history and aims to re-balance its demographic makeup, enticing local families back through improvements to the environment and provision of community and cultural venues.
Facilitated by private-public partnerships, it involves the preservation of a number of sites and numerous buildings, from humble divers’ houses to prestigious courtyard residences to commercial warehouses; plus the upgrading of other façades, and the construction of four new buildings. All of these are connected through a visitor pathway, with vacant plots left by demolitions landscaped as public spaces.The preservation/restoration of the traditional buildings included reinstating lost wind towers for natural climate control. The materials employed match the originals – notably coral stone reused from demolished structures, and wood.
Terrazzo, which became popular in the area in the 1940s for flooring, is utilised extensively for street furniture, and contains flecks of oyster shell. Spherical white streetlamps atop terrazzo posts bring further pearl-related symbolism and assist way-finding.The new buildings respect the historic environment’s scale and street lines while making bold contemporary architectural statements.
The Pearling Path Visitor and Experience Centre and the House of Architectural Heritage adopt a Brutalist aesthetic, the former’s forms echoing the wind towers and coral blocks of traditional neighbouring structures; the Archaeologies of Green Pavilion features a series of interlinking gardens containing indigenous plants; and the Dar Al Jinaa Centre for Traditional Music is inventively cloaked in chain mail, shielding against solar glare while allowing a constant breeze. Music events here and elsewhere in the programme include performances of pearl-fishers’ songs.Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, all new planning applications are reviewed by the project team to ensure further developments are in keeping with the scheme’s overarching objectives.
Arcadia Education ProjectSouth Kanarchor, BangladeshArchitect: Saif Ul Haque Sthapati, Dhaka, Bangladesh Client:
Maleka Welfare Trust, Dhaka, Bangladesh After four decades of teaching in the United Kingdom, Razia Alam returned to her home country of Bangladesh where she established a school for underprivileged children, using her pension funds.When the lease on the existing premises of this school expired, its founder sought out a site on which to build.
The budget restricted her choice to areas not well suited for development. Wanting the school to be near water, she purchased a riverside plot which, it turned out, is submerged in up to 3m of monsoon water for a third of the year.Rather than disrupting the ecosystem to create a stabilised mound for building on, or erecting a structure on stilts that would have been too high in the dry season, her chosen architect – a lifelong acquaintance – devised the solution of an amphibious structure, anchored to the site, that could sit on the ground or float on the water, depending on the seasonal conditions.
The building footprint was levelled using retaining walls of sandbags with sand, earth and local brick infill, and used tyres fixed atop for cushioning. Bamboo posts sunk 2m into the ground serve as anchoring points for the school’s various independent but interconnected rectangular structures: three multipurpose spaces used mainly as classrooms; office; open-topped platform; toilet/bathroom structure; septic tank and water tank structures; and a single corridor offering access to all spaces. Built of three types of bamboo, they are kept afloat by substructures of used 30-gallon steel drums within bamboo frames.
Chosen for its lightness and durability, the bamboo was purchased in neighbouring villages and drifted along the river to the site. That used for the substructure, anchoring posts and roof was chemically treated to remove any material that could rot. All other elements were waterproofed by applying liquid made from boiled local gaab fruit – a traditional Bangladeshi method. Most of the joints use a rope-tie technique rather than steel wire which would corrode.
The classrooms’ bow-arched bamboo roofs, allowing the spaces to remain column-free, required some prototyping to perfect. Aside from a few battery-powered drills, only hand tools were used for the construction.Saif Ul Haque Sthapati (SHS) is an architecture practice based in Dhaka, directed by its principal Saif Ul Haque and his associate Salma Parvin Khan.
Palestinian MuseumBirzeit, PalestineArchitect: Heneganh Peng Architects, Dublin, Ireland Client:
Taawon-Welfare Association, Ramallah, Palestine Built to celebrate Palestinian heritage and with a stated aim to ‘foster a culture of dialogue and tolerance’, the museum is a flagship project of Palestine’s largest NGO, with support from nearby Birzeit University. The site is defined by agricultural terraces formed of dry-stone walls (sanasil) erected by local villagers to adapt the terrain for cultivation. Selected through an international competition, the design takes its cues from this setting and is firmly embedded within it.
An access road leads to the top of the hill where approaching visitors glimpse views out of the other side of the building, across this characteristic landscape and to the Mediterranean 40km to the west. The building’s plan is double-wedge-shaped. The main visitor spaces – lobby, exhibition area, glass gallery, shop, café and cloakroom – are at entrance level, limiting the need for vertical circulation. The café, in the north wing, opens onto a paved open-air terrace with further views.
A pre-existing hollow in the topography is exploited to provide additional accommodation underneath the south wing, including stores and an education/research centre, leading to a sheltered outdoor amphitheatre.The zigzagging forms of the Museum’s architecture and hillside gardens are inspired by the surrounding agricultural terraces, stressing the link with the land and symbolising resistance to the West Bank’s military occupation. Palestinian limestone, quarried locally near Bethlehem, is used for both façade cladding and exterior paving, unifying the scheme.
The west façade’s masonry is cranked upwards in two places, exposing triangular curtain walls with metal fins whose sizes and locations are carefully calculated to protect the interior from solar glare and heat gain while maximising natural light – one of a number of measures that have earned the building its LEED Gold certification. Internally the Museum’s concrete structure is rough- rendered and white-painted.
The garden is themed to range from agricultural crops at the outer confines to more refined plantings nearer the buildings, and is intended to supply the café with typical Palestinian produce. Rainwater from the terrace and amphitheatre is harvested for use in the irrigation and flush systems, and wastewater is treated also for use in irrigation.
Public Spaces Development ProgrammeRepublic of Tatarstan, Russian FederationPatron: Rustam Minnikhanov, President of the Republic of TatarstanConception:
Natalia Fishman-Bekmambetova, curator, Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Tatarstan, Ministry of Construction, Architecture, Housing and Utilities of the Republic of Tatarstan
Tatarstan’s Soviet period, beginning in 1920’s saw much modernist construction and hierarchical centralised planning, with diverse urban locations made to look alike. Many mosques and churches were destroyed, leaving their associated public spaces functionless. The post-Soviet era, since the Republic of Tatarstan’s foundation in 1992, brought freedom of movement and an exodus from rural towns.
Also, a return to private real-estate ownership enabled wealthy individuals and businesses to buy up large swathes of land, notably in scenic lakeside and forest areas, thus limiting the population’s recreation options in most post-soviet countries. The ambitious Public Spaces Development Programme seeks to counter these trends and to offer an equal quality of environment to all Tatar citizens, regardless of settlement size – as well as reinstating a sense of individual place in each. From its inception by the President of Tatarstan in 2015 until the end of 2018, it had transformed 328 spaces across each of the Republic’s 45 municipal districts, covering 33 villages, 42 towns and two major cities, and embracing both Soviet and longer-standing historical settings.
There are ten different project types: water bodies; ponds; embankments; beaches; parks; public gardens; boulevards; squares; streets; and walkways. Most include infrastructure for cultural activities. Unified way- finding signage, furniture and ornamental features reflect aspects of each place’s culture or history, and are produced locally to a high standard, incentivising small businesses.
The spaces are conceived for year-round enjoyment, including during dark winters and heavy snowfall, through eye-catching lighting and sometimes winter sports facilities. The snowfall offered a further challenge of limiting construction to the period from May to November.Some projects are initiated by members of the community, others by the state. In all cases the design and implementation process is highly participatory, based on strong engagement with local citizens and extensive consultation of economists, anthropoligists, dendrologists and others.
An architectural bureau initiated by the Programme’s curator has become a magnet for young local and national talent, with many of its recruits going on to set up their own practices to oversee one of the larger projects. The positive changes seen are social, economic, cultural and ecological as well as physical. The success of this initiative has led to the introduction in 2017 of a similar programme at a federal level.
Alioune Diop University Teaching and Research UnitBambey, SenegalArchitect: IDOM, Bilbao, SpainClient: ACBEP, Ministry of Urbanism & Ministry of Higher Education, Dakar, Senegal
Alioune Diop University was founded in 2007 as part of the Senegalese government’s efforts to decentralise higher-education provision, seeking both to encourage youth to stay in rural areas and to provide educational programmes appropriate to these contexts. By 2012 it was functioning beyond capacity, so an extension project was launched, of which this building formed the major part.
The structure comprises a 500-seat lecture hall, five 50-student classrooms, eight 100-student classrooms, three laboratories, ten lecturers’ offices and two meeting rooms. It was the architects’ choice to combine all of these into a single mass with an identity and presence worthy of its university status – unlike the campus’s pre-existing small, scattered blocks. Although single storey, its slanting roof soars to almost 10m on the north side. Its south side is distinguished by a lattice screen running the full 203m of its length, made of perforated breezeblocks manufactured on site by local masons.
At the east end, a sweeping entrance ramp and outdoor stair create a connection with the rest of the campus.The lattice wall – echoing similar, smaller features on local buildings – is one of the strategies for passive cooling in a location where temperatures can exceed 40°C. A broad corridor separates this from the accommodation behind, which is arranged into five sub-units with staircases in the voids between them. Their standard post-and-beam concrete construction is organised on a 3.6m structural grid, facilitating on- site prefabrication.
Each sub-unit has an insulated roof; while the heat-reflective metal outer roof runs the whole length of the building mass and extends out to form a giant loggia to the north, drawing hot air up and away. This loggia is supported by thin metal columns of a varying three-branched form, recalling the solitary trees in whose shade locals commonly gather.
Other ecologically minded measures include a series of stone-lined basins filled with gravel and vegetation, where both rainwater from the roof and filtered wastewater are directed.By employing locally familiar construction techniques and following sustainability principles, the project succeeded in keeping costs and maintenance demands to a minimum, while still making a bold architectural statement.
Wasit Wetland CentreSharjah, United Arab EmiratesArchitect: X-Architects, Dubai, United Arab EmiratesClient: Environment and Protected Areas Authority, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Part of a much larger initiative by Sharjah’s Environment and Protected Areas Agency to clean up and rehabilitate this ancient chain of wetlands along the Persian Gulf coast, the Wasit Wetland Centre aims to supply information and education about this unique environment and to encourage its preservation.In designing the visitor centre, the architects took advantage of the site’s natural topography to minimise its visual impact by making it appear submerged into the ground.
Visitors descend a ramp to arrive at an angled intersection between two linear elements of the building: one, to the sides, containing services and administrative offices; the other, ahead, a long viewing gallery flanked by aviaries where birds can be seen in their natural habitat. At the far end of the viewing gallery, a third linear element, running perpendicular, houses a café and multipurpose space with views out over the open wetlands.A cantilevered steel truss roof over the viewing gallery avoids the need for peripheral columns, allowing seamless glazed façades.
The interior is deliberately minimalistic throughout, placing the full focus on the surrounding nature: informative displays are the only adornment on the supporting central wall. The façade glazing is slightly tilted, to enhance reflections of the landscape for the birds while minimising reflections for people looking out. The floor being lower than the ground outside, a continuous concrete sill provides a place to sit and contemplate birds at their level. To counter the very hot desert climate, the roof is well insulated and the glass is shaded by its overhang. Some fabric shading is also provided over the aviaries.
Rainwater harvested from the roof is discreetly directed to specific areas of the landscape via carefully placed spouts that are camouflaged by landscape elements.Six bird hides scattered around a lake created in the middle of a 200,000m2 site follow a unified aesthetic but are each individually designed for their context, and employ some recycled wood and plastic in their construction, reinforcing the ecological message.What had become a waste dumping ground has had its indigenous ecosystem restored, and is proving a popular place for visitors to appreciate and learn about their natural environment.