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Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2004
« on: December 02, 2004, 04:47:59 PM »
Made of mud, sand, stone, glass, and steel, scaled from tiny to immense, designed for living, working, learning, and worshipping, a select collection of projects reveals a "comprehensive approach adopted to discover, understand, and explain the challenges of architecture in the Muslim world as it confronts modernity in all its diversity."

So says the jury of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture program, which, every three years, announces recipients of one of the world's most prestigious architecture awards. This year, seven projects have been selected for their architectural excellence and their service to the values of the primarily Muslim societies they are intended to serve.

Al-Abbas Mosque

One of the seven projects is the restoration of Al-Abbas Mosque, in Asnaf, Yemen, executed by conservator Marylène Barret of France, with assistance from Abdullah al-Hadrami of Yemen. The mosque is a living reminder of traditions and architectural achievements of one of the world's early civilizations.

Built over 800 years ago, the mosque is situated on the remains of an even older, pre-Islamic temple, on a site considered sacred since ancient times.

The lower parts of the mosque's walls are made of stone, with mud bricks above. Almost square in plan, the mosque has a flat roof, making it cubic in shape. Inside are six columns, four of stone dating from pre-Islamic times and two of brick. The columns divide the interior into four rows, leading towards the mihrab wall.

An elaborate coffered ceiling contrasts with the building's modest exterior. Most of it has survived intact since its original construction 800 years ago. The ceiling's twenty-two caissons are covered with intricate decoration carved, gilded, and painted in tempera. No speculative elements were inserted during the restoration. All new elements can be traced back to original examples in both their form and their location.

Primary School

A school in the village of Gando, in the West African country Burkina Faso is the result of one man's mission to improve conditions in his village. Architect Diébédo Francis Kéré designed the building, raised the funds for construction, secured government support to train people in building with local materials, and drew on the strong tradition of community solidarity to engage all the villagers in the construction.

Three classrooms in a linear arrangement are separated by covered outdoor areas that can be used for teaching and play. Traditional load-bearing walls are made from compressed earth blocks. Concrete beams run across the width of the ceiling, and steel bars lying across these support a ceiling also made of compressed earth blocks.

Climatic considerations were important in choices for the building's form and materials. An overhanging roof shades the facades, and the corrugated metal roofing is lifted by a steel truss, allowing cooling air to flow freely between the roof and the ceiling. The high thermal mass in the walls and ceiling moderate room temperature.

All the people involved in the project management were villagers, and the skills they learned will be applied to similar initiatives in the future. Already, two neighboring villages have followed this example for community organizing to build schools.

Old City of Jerusalem

Jerusalem has a 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 Programme (OCJRP) aims to rehabilitate the city, to preserve its heritage, and to create a better quality of life for its inhabitants.

The OCJRP is a comprehensive project aimed at restoration, training, education, and raising public awareness. So far, over 160 projects — 82 residential, 26 public, and 55 commercial buildings — have been completed, in close collaboration with local institutions, international organizations, and funding agencies.

The 10-year-old technical office established by the Geneva-based Welfare Association offers professional support in the rehabilitation through revitalization planning, emergency restoration, total restoration, and training in conservation. The program is providing decent living conditions for residents, creating new spaces for the community, and ensuring the preservation of the city's rich historic urban fabric.

B2 House

The only private residence among the Aga Khan award winners is a house in Büykhüsun, a small agricultural village near Ayvacik, Turkey. Designed by Turkish architect Han Tümertekin, the house is for two brothers who wanted a weekend retreat on the beautiful and secluded north Aegean coast.

The simple rectangular mass of the "B2 House" sits on an open, terraced site. Despite its unmistakably modern form, the house is cast in local materials and constructed with traditional building techniques out of respect for the neighboring houses and for earthquake resistance.

The B2 House opens to the surrounding landscape; basic shelter becomes a space for the contemplation of nature. The ground floor is dominated by a large living room and the upper floor by two bedrooms. The jury noted: "B2 conveys a maximum amount of dignity, achieved with a minimum of means. It celebrates the act of contemplation, looking towards the distant horizon with openness and clarity."

Petronas Towers

Perhaps the most widely known project on this year's Aga Khan award list, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, were designed by U.S. architect Cesar Pelli & Associates.

These towers are the centerpiece of the mixed-use Kuala Lumpur City Centre complex, set in the heart of the city's commercial district. Rising 1483 feet (452 meters), the towers were certified the world's tallest buildings by the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in 1996.

The plan of each tower is derived from an Islamic pattern. Two interlocking squares form an eight-pointed star, modified by placing eight semicircles in the angles of the corners to create more floor space. The towers' construction made extensive use of local materials, and they have become the country's most significant urban landmark.

The awards jury commented: "The 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."

Sandbag Shelter Prototypes

With an eye toward the world's critical need for shelter, Iranian architect Nader Khalili has for years been developing construction methods that are solid, inexpensive, and fast to execute. At the Cal-Earth Institute, he perfected "Sandbag Shelters," or "super-adobe" system.

Khalili believes that the global need for housing — exacerbated by natural disasters, war, and social injustice — can be addressed only by using earth construction.

The basic construction technique involves filling sandbags with earth and laying them in circular courses that are corbelled near the top to form a dome. Barbed wire laid between courses prevents the sandbags from shifting and provides earthquake resistance. Ironically, it is the materials of war — sandbags and barbed wire — that bind together traditional earth architecture with contemporary safety requirements.

The system uses the timeless forms of arches, domes, and vaults to create single and double-curvature shell structures that are both strong and beautiful. In addition to providing earthquake resistance, the aerodynamic form resists hurricanes. The use of sandbags aids flood resistance, and the earth itself provides insulation and fireproofing.

Bibliotheca Alexandrina

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt is a revival of the legendary library built in classical Greek times. The rebuilding of the library, by the Snøhetta Hamza Consortium, of Egypt and Norway, has returned Alexandria to its former status as a center for learning and provided the city with a landmark building.

The library was designed as a tilting disc rising from the ground, with four levels below ground and seven above. The facility provides a light-filled reading room with seating for 2,000 readers, six specialist libraries, three museums, seven research centers, three 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 four thousand granite blocks carved with letters from the alphabets of the world.

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 Islamic societies. The awards are selected by an independent jury which, this year, included Ghada Amer, Hanif Kara, Rahul Mehrotra, Farshid Moussavi, Modjtaba Sadria, Reinhard Schulze, Elías Torres Tur, Billie Tsien, and Jafar Tukan.


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