Reprinted from:
Architecture & Urbanism
magazine
No. 78/79
Autumn/Winter 2005
Tehran





Architecture

Aga Khan Award for Architecture

.
2004
 
 

On November 28, 2004, at a ceremony at the historical Agra Fort in India, Agha Khan announced the seven recipients of the 2004 Agha Khan Award for Architecture.
During the current cycle of the Award, 378 projects were presented for consideration, and 23 were reviewed on site by outside experts. An independent Master Jury selected 7 Award recipients that are notable for having attained the highest international standards of architectural excellence, while reflecting the values of the primary Muslim societies the projects are intended to serve.

The 7 projects selected by the 2004 Award Master Jury are:
Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt
Primary School, Gando, Burkina Faso
Sandbag Shelter Prototypes, various locations
Restoration of Al-Abbas Mosque, Asnaf, Yemen
Old city of Jerusalem Revitalization Program, Jerusalem
B2 House, Ayvacik, Turkey
Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Two of the projects - Bibliotheca Alexandria in Egypt and the Petronas Towers in Malaysia - are the results of important international architectural competitions for high-profile landmark buildings. A third project - the Sandbag Shelter Prototypes - is an experiment for self-built housing that employs earth-filled sandbags stacked atop each other to form domed and vaulted spaces. The provision of housing is an important aspect of the Old City of Jerusalem Revitalization that also includes components for the restoration of historic monuments and for the creation of public community facilities, schools and playgrounds. The Primary School in Gando, Burkina Faso, goes far beyond its educational program and exemplifies highest-caliber architectural design employing locally available materials and techniques, training, and community participation and empowerment. B2 House, located in small village on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, extends architectural design to a poetic level, establishing dialog between nature and building, inside and outside, and public and private. The Restoration of Al-Abbas Mosque in Asnaf, Yemen, represent attainment of the highest standards of restoration and conservation, while at the same time, investigating the nature and contemporary importance of a sacred site.

Reinforcing the architectural excellence of the seven winning projects is the written statement of the Master Jury, which reveals the comprehensive approach adopted to discover, understand and explain the challenges of architecture in the Muslim world, as it confronts modernity in all its diversity. The Jury identified 4 areas of social meaning to illustrate the winning projects: How the complexity of history and of historical memory can be expressed in architecture; how private initiatives are integrated into the emerging public sphere; how to express individuality within complex social and in the context of the plurality of Muslim traditions; and how power and authority in the global domains of technology, culture and economics might be addressed through architecture. Throughout their 2 week-long meetings at the Award headquarters in Geneva, the Jury gave foremost importance to projects that raise the standards of excellence.

2004 Award Steering Committee
His Highness The Agha Khan, Chairman
Akram Abu Hamdan, Director General, National Resources Investment & Development Corporation, Amman
Charles Correa, Principal, Charles Correa Architects, Bombay
Abdou Filali Ansari, Director, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations, Agha Khan University, London
Jacques Herzog, Partner, Herzog & de Mueron Architects, Basle
Glenn Lowry, Director, The Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean, College of Architecture, Art & Planning, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Babar Khan Mumtaz, Reader in Housing Studies, University of London
Peter Rowe, Raymonde Garbe Professor of Architecture & Urban Design, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Education Program Director, Agha Khan Trust for Culture

Award Secretariat (Geneva)
Suha Ozkan, Secretary General
Farrokh Derakhshani, Director of Award Procedures
Jack Kennedy, Executive Officer

2004 Award Master Jury
Ghada Amer, Artist, New York City
Hanif Kara, Partner, Adams Kara Taylor Structural & Civil Engineering Consultancy, London
Rahul Mehrotra, Executive Director, Urban Design Research Institute, Bombay
Farshid Moussavi, Partner, Foreign Office Architects, London
Mojtaba Sadria, Professor of Cross-Cultural Relations & East Asian Studies, Chuo University, Tokyo
Reinhard Schulze, Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Bern
Elias Torres Tur, Partner, Martinez Lapeia-Torres Arquitectos SL, Barcelona
Billie Tsien, Partner, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, New York City
Jafar Tukan, Principal, Consolidated Consultants for Engineering and the Environment, Amman

Projects

Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt
Client: Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt
Architects: Snohetta Hamza Consortium, Egypt & Norway
Completed: October 2002

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a revival of the legendary ancient library built in classical Greek times. The rebuilding of the library has returned Alexandria to its former status as a center for learning and exchange, and provided the city with a landmark building.
The library was designed as a titling disk rising from the ground, with 4 levels below ground and 7 above. The scale of the building is thus minimized at close quarters, so it does not overwhelm the visitor.
The facility provides a main reading room with seating for 2000 readers, 6 specialist libraries, 3 museums, 7 research centers, 3 permanent galleries, space for temporary exhibitions, a planetarium, a public plaza, offices, a cafeteria and all the necessary services, required for such a complex. The circular form of the library also has strong symbolic significance and an iconic presence. Its exterior wall is clad with 4000 granite blocks, carved with letters from the alphabets or the word.
The main reading area is a single open space with 8 terraces, each accommodating a different subject section, starting from the roots of knowledge (philosophy, history, religion, geography) and ending with the latest technologies.
The substructure of the library is the most innovative part of the project. Its circular diaphragm wall is considered the largest in the world, with a diameter of 160 meters and a height of 35 meters. One of the most successful features of the building is its use of natural light, drawn in through glazed panels on the roof. The orientation of the roof panels was carefully studied on computer at the design stage to introduce maximum levels of natural light without direct sunlight.
The library has also acted as an catalyst for improvements throughout the city, such as renovating roads, buildings, bridges and upgrading hotels. The library is seen as a progressive landmark for the country as a whole, reinstating Egypt on the map as open, modern center of cultural exchange.
Jury Citation
This building has received an award, because it shows an innovative approach to the design and placement of a large, symbolic form on one of the most important waterfronts in the world. From its inception through an international competition to its design and construction by many international companies, and its current financial management, the project provides a model for other such projects in bringing together the international community and encouraging cooperation and commitment from society as a whole.
While the building is groundbreaking in architectural and technological terms, it also responds sensitively to a wide spectrum of issues, including politics, religion, culture and history. The bold 'titled disc' forms an icon, while delivering a highly formal and monumental building. The technical challenges of constructing such a large development close to the water's edge and within an urban setting have been embraced and dealt with through the use of advanced technologies. The form also provides a clear organization and functions well for the variety of programs it houses, while acting as a catalyst for improvements throughout the city. Finally, the  project celebrates learning and brings knowledge to societies across all cultures, playing a crucial role in the progress of civilization.
Primary School, Gando, Burkina Faso
Client: The Community of Gando Village, Burkina Faso
Architect: Diebedo Francis Kere, Burkina Faso
Completion: 2001

Gando, with a population of 3000, lies on the southern plains of Burkina Faso, some 200 km from Ouagadougou, the capital. Diebedo Francis Kere, the first person from Gando to study abroad, was convinced of his people's advancement. As an architecture student in Berlin, he took upon himself the cause of ensuring that his village would not be deprived of a school, and with a group of friends in Germany, Kere set up a fund-raising association, "Schulbausteine fur Gando" (Bricks foe the Gando School). The idea met with a positive response and having secured finance through the association, Kere also obtained the support of LOCOMAT (a government agency in Burkina Faso) to train brick makers in the technique of working with compressed stabilized earth. Construction of the school began in October 2000, carried out largely by the village's men, women and children. After the school was completed in July 2001, construction of buildings for resident teachers began along similar principles.
To achieve sustainability, the project was based on the principles of designing for climatic comfort with low-cost construction, making the most of local materials and the potential of the local community, and adapting technology from the industrialized world in a simple way. It was also conceived as an exemplar that would raise awareness in the local community of the merits of traditional materials.
Climatic considerations largely determined the building's form and materials. The structure comprises traditional load-bearing walls, made from stabilized and compressed earth blocks. Concrete beams run across the width of the ceiling, and steel bars lying across these support a ceiling also of compressed earth blocks. Climatic comfort is also ensured by the overhanging roof, which shades the facades, by the raising of the corrugated metal roof on a steel truss, allowing cooling air to flow freely between the roof and the ceiling, and through the use of earth blocks for the walls, which absorb heat, moderating room temperature.
All the people involved in the project management were native to the village, and the skills learned here will be applied to further initiatives in the village and elsewhere.
Jury Citation
This project has received an award for its elegant architectonic clarity, achieved with the most humble of means and materials, and for its transformative value. Located in a remote settlement of Burkina Faso, the school is the result of a vision that was first articulated by the architect and then embraced by his community. The first person from his village with access to higher education, while studying architecture in Berlin, he became determined to design and build the school. Securing funding for materials from supporters in Germany, he mobilized the men, women and children of the village to erect the building. The result is a structure of grace, warmth and sophistication, in sympathy with the local climate and culture. The practical and the poetic are fused. The primary school in Gando inspires pride and instills hope in its community, laying the foundations for the advancement of a people.
Sandbag Shelter Prototypes, various locations
Architect: Cal-Earth Institute, Nader Khalili, US Timetable First Development, 1992

The global need for housing includes millions refugees and displaced persons - victims of natural disasters and wars. Iranian architect Nader Khalili believes that this need can be addressed only by using the potential of earth construction.
After extensive research into vernacular earth building methods in Iran, followed by detailed prototyping, he has developed the sandbag or 'Superadobe' system. The basic construction technique involves filling sandbags with earth and laying them in courses in a circular plan. The circular courses are corbelled near the top to form a dome. Barbed wire is laid between courses to prevent the sandbags from shifting and to provide earthquake resistance.
Hence the materials of war - sandbags and barbed wire - are used for peaceful ends, integrating traditional earth architecture with contemporary global safety requirements.
The system employs the timeless forms of arches, domes and vaults to create single and double-curvature shell structures that are both strong and aesthetically pleasing. While these load-bearing or compression forms refer to the ancient mud brick architecture of the Middle East, the use of barbed wire as a tensile element alludes to the portable tensile structures of nomadic cultures. The result is an extremely safe structure. The addition of barbed wire to the compression structures creates earthquake resistance; the aerodynamic form resists hurricanes; the use of sandbags aids flood resistance; and the earth itself provides insulation and fire proofing.
Since 1982, Nader Khalili has developed and tested the Superadobe prototype in California. In 1991, he founded the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture (Cal-Earth), a non-profit research and educational organization that covers everything from construction on the Moon and on Mars to housing design and development for the world's homeless foe the United Nations. Both the UNHCR and the United Nations Development Program have chosen to apply the system, which they used in 1995 to provide temporary shelters for a flood of refugees coming into Iran from Iraq.
Khalili's educational philosophy has also continued to develop. A distance-teaching program is being tested for the live broadcast of hands-on instruction directly from Cal-Earth. Many individuals have been trained at Cal-Earth to build with these techniques and are carrying this knowledge to those in need in many countries of the world, from Mongolia to Mexico, India to the United States, and Iran, Brazil, Siberia, Chile and South Africa.
Jury Citation
These shelters serve as a prototype for temporary housing using extremely inexpensive means to provide safe homes that can be built quickly and have the high insulation values necessary in arid climates. Their curved forms was devised in response to seismic conditions, ingeniously using sand or earth as raw materials, since their flexibility allows the construction of single and double-curvature compression shells that can withstand lateral seismic forces.
The prototype is a symbiosis of tradition and technology. It employs vernacular forms, integrating load-bearing and tensile structures, but provides a remarkable degree of strength and durability for this type of construction, which is traditionally weak and fragile, through a composite system of sandbags and barbed wire. Created by packing local earth into bags, which are then stacked vertically, the structures are not external systems applied to a territory, but instead grow out of their context, recycling available resources for the provision of housing. The sustainability of this approach is further strengthened, because the construction of the sandbag shelters does not require external intervention, but can be built by the occupants themselves with minimal training. The system is also highly flexible: The scale of structures and arrangement of clusters can be varied and applied to different ecosystems to produce settlements that are suitable for different numbers of individuals or groups with differing social needs.
Due to their strength, the shelters can also be made into permanent housing, transforming the outcome of natural disasters into new opportunities.
Restoration of Al-Abbas Mosque, Near Asnaf, Yemen
Client: General Organization for Antiquities, Manuscripts and Museums and the French Center for Yemeni Studies, Yemen
Conservators: Marylene Barret, France, with assistance from Abdullah al-Hadrami, Yemen

Al-Abbas Mosque is a testimony to the living traditions and architectural achievements of one of the world's earliest civilizations. Build over 800 years ago, the mosque is situated on the remains of a pre-Islamic shrine or temple on a site considered sacred since ancient times. Its cubic form also has ancient precedents, including the Kaaba in Mecca. The local population continues to revere the mosque and the site today still holds special significance for them. The lower parts of the mosque's wall are made of stone, with mud bricks at the upper levels. Almost square in plan, the mosque has a flat roof, making it cubic in shape. Inside are 6 columns, 4 in stone dating from pre-Islamic times and 2 in brick. By the 1980s, the ceiling was suffering from rot and warping in 1985, the Yemeni Government asked the French Center for Yemeni Studies in Sanaa to help preserve it. The ceiling was dismantled with funding from UNESCO and removed to the National Museumof Sanaa. In 1987, the French Center asked archaeologist and conservator Marylene Barret to carry out the restoration of the ceiling, which took 3 years. The cleaning and restoration was a slow, painstaking process, and the importance of preserving the history of the ceiling was respected. Major repairs were also required on the roof, and the decision was taken to restore the fabric of the building itself. Marylene undertook this work with Yemeni architect Abdullah al-Hadrami, together with a team of French and Yemeni archaeologists and the best local craftsmen, who completed the restoration project in 1996. Traditional materials and techniques - many still in use today, such as qudad, a traditional mortar composed of lime and volcanic aggregate that is polished with a smooth stone and daubed with animal fat - were employed wherever possible. No speculative elements were inserted: All new elements can be traced back to original examples in both their form and their location.
After the completion of the roof, 1000 separate pieces of ceiling were carefully assembled like a puzzle and numbered in museum. They were then transported to the mosque, one row at a time, and fixed to an ingenious new supporting structure of U-shaped box beams that is entirely hidden now that the restored panels are in place.
The restoration principles employed in Al-Abbas Mosque may well serve as a guide for further projects concerned with the preservation of cultural property, and the project may stimulate further research, particularly in relation to a number of ruins surrounding the mosque site.
Jury Citation
This scheme has been chosen to receive an award, because it applies exemplary conservation standards and engages local pride in safeguarding this culturally significant monument for future generations.
The project presents the establishment of a successful and sustainable partnership between local and external expertise for the conservation process. In fact, the process has raised benchmark for restoration in the region, reviving traditional practices in tandem with modern scientific approaches to conservation. These range from the use of traditional mortars and plasters to complex structural repairs and conservation of the delicate decorative ceiling paintings.
The project also demonstrates sensitivity in dealing with the building as a living fabric. The restoration has extended the significance and usefulness of this historic mosque for the benefit of the larger social, cultural and physical landscape, in which it is situated.
Old city of Jerusalem Revitalization Program (OCJRP), Old City, Jerusalem
Sponsor: Welfare Association, Switzerland
Conservation: OCJRP Technical Office, Jerusalem
Completion: Ongoing since 1996

Jerusalem has an extraordinarily long and varied history, but the urban fabric of the old city is threatened by overcrowding, lack of maintenance and poor services. The Old City of Jerusalem Revitalization Program aims to rehabilitate the city, to preserve its heritage and to create a better quality or life for its inhabitants. It is a comprehensive project aimed at every aspect of human life, with several components, including restoration, training, education and public awareness. All these components are tied together to achieve an integrated and enduring revitalization.
The body of completed works to date includes over 160 projects, all undertaken in close collaboration with local institutions, international organizations and funding agencies. The urban fabric has suffered from neglect, in appropriate use and inadequate services, with many people living in dilapidated buildings in unsanitary conditions.
To address these issues the Welfare Association - a Geneva-based non-governmental organization established in 1983 to support Palestinians in all development areas - set up a technical office in Jerusalem in 1995. The office is composed all professionals from different fields: Architecture, engineering, planning, economics and history.
The Old City Revitalization Plan forms the basis of the program's work. The duration of the project varies from about 3 months for a small house to many years for non-residential projects; work on buildings of historic and architectural value is carried out slowly and sensitively and made with great care.
By the end of 2003, 82 residential projects and 26 public and 55 commercial buildings had been restored through the program, providing decent living conditions for residents, creating new spaces for the community and ensuring the preservation of the rich historic fabric of the old city.
Jury Citation
The program has received an award for its comprehensive approach towards sustaining the life of a community in its natural setting, a life threatened by the deterioration of its physical, social and economic conditions.
The project is successful in addressing several issues, including the restoration and rehabilitation of housing, as well as the adaptive reuse of historic buildings and monuments for new functions. The project has created a community outreach program to raise public awareness of the value of historic buildings and to encourage public participation and restoration.
The effort is conducted under severe constraints, restoring the old city as a living, vibrant and beautiful environment. The process is meticulously conducted by a team of professionals, motivated by their love of the place and its people. This is a project about dignity and self-esteem.
B2 House, Buykhusun, Ayvacik, Turkey
Clients: Selman and Suha Bilal, Turkey
Architect: Han Tumertekin, Turkey
Completion: June 2001

B2 House is located on the edges Buykhusun, a small village near Ayvacik, on Turkey's north Aegean coast housing, a tightly knit community of around 450 people, who work mainly in agriculture. Located just outside the south-east boundary of the village, the pure rectangular mass of B2 HOUSE sits on an open terraced site, unmistakably modern and separate from the traditional houses of the surrounding village, but respecting and allying itself with those houses through its use of traditional local materials and techniques. The house opens itself the surrounding and encourages its users not only to observe the landscape but also to immerse themselves in nature through the use of semi-external parts of the accommodation. It is a place, where a basic shelter becomes a space for the celebration of nature. B2 House is embedded in the slope of the mountainside; however, in contrast to the local building typology, there are no garden walls around B2 House. As a result, the site is absorbed by the surrounding landscape but, at the same time, the house is set apart, appearing almost as a sculpture on a pedestal.
The purity of the main spaces and an integration with nature are maintained by semi-external spaces and all of the outdoor spaces are conceived as integral parts of the house.
The structure of the house is earthquake resistant and fairly simple, and it was built with local technology and materials.
With a reduced architectural language employing humble materials and rudimentary forms, remarkable spatial conditions are achieved in B2 House. The spaces gain a sublime presence that transforms the sense of a dwelling into that of a monument. The house functions as an apparatus for perceiving nature with truly mesmerizing effects, constantly shifting the user from domestic activity to a state of pure contemplation in a suspended timeless zone. Its capacity to transport its users between different realms is extended to its image: The pure mass on a pedestal is conceived with the silent grandeur and noble simplicity of a monument, while its scale and humble materials take it back to the realm of the vernacular.
Jury Citation
This house has been chosen to receive an award, because it embodies the sense of perfection and well-being. It represent a progressive approach in acknowledging the history of its place, the surrounding houses and landscape, to form a new and unique creation that is, at the same time, an integral part of its community. The house stands apart - beautifully shaped and elegantly dressed - but in the future additional houses may embrace and adopt it, fully integrating into a wider landscape. B2 conveys a maximum amount or dignity, achieved with a minimum of means. It celebrates the act of contemplation, looking towards the distant between horizon with openness and clarity. It incorporates a wealth of architectural knowledge, but at the same time expresses the individuality of the architect's aspirations.
When filled with life and activity, the house becomes a place of special significance and reference in the community, embracing all those, whom it welcomes as visitor or passers-by. When empty, it continues to command the respect it so much deserves.
Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Client: Kuala Lumpur City Center Holdings Sdn Bhd., Malaysia
Architect: Cesar Pelli & Associates, US
Completion: January 1997 - August 1999

The Petronas towers are the centerpiece of the mixed-use Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC) complex, set in the heart of the commercial district of the city.
Rising 452 meters, the towers were certified the world's tallest buildings by the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in 1996.
The complex is at the forefront of technology, with a form derived from an Islamic pattern, an extensive use of local materials.
The towers have become a popular example of contemporary architecture in Malaysia, and their elegant form makes them the country's most significant urban landmark.
The project design is based on the concept of two interlocking squares that form an eight-pointed star, modified by placing 8 semicircles in the angles of the corners, to create more floor space. Each tower rises 88 stories and provides 128,000 square meters of floor space, including and additional circular 'bustle' or annex 44 stories high. The towers taper at 6 intervals, with the walls of the upper levels sloping inwards. Both towers are topped by a conical spire and a 73.5-meter-high pinnacle. The towers are connected at the 41st and 42nd levels, 170 meters above street level, by a sky bridge, enabling intercommunication between the towers. The structural design of the sky bridge was complex. because it had to accommodate differing movements from each tower.
Throughout the complex, automatic controls and advanced communication reduce energy consumption and promote convenience of use. The Petronas Towers complex combines modern technology with a sense of cultural identity. It has also introduced new architectural standards to Malaysia in terms of design, construction and technology.
Jury Citation
The project has received an award, because it represents a new direction in skyscraper design, featuring advanced technology, while symbolizing local and national aspirations. The project embodies several innovations, ranging from the use of unusually high-strength concrete to facilitate a soft-tube structural system, to an inventive vertical transportation concept and the integration of cutting-edge energy conservation systems. The success of this project lies in the manner, in which it incorporates these technological innovations, while generating a slender form that responds simple geometrical pattern that generates the plan, not only uses space efficiently to maximize exposure to natural light, but also creates a rich spatial expression. The building has become an icon that expresses the sophistication of contemporary Malaysian society and builds on the country's rich traditions to shape a world city.
 
 
Aga Khan Award for Architecture
 
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