Aga Khan Awards for Architecture 2010

On Wednesday, November 24, in a ceremony held at the pristine Museum of Islamic Art designed by I.M. Pei in Doha, Qatar, His Highness the Aga Khan presented the 2010 Award for Architecture. Unique among awards worldwide, the Aga Khan award program follows a three-year cycle overseen by a steering committee — from nomination, through evaluation by trained professionals, to selection by a master jury. This year, for the 11th cycle of the awards program, out of 401 entries 19 projects achieved shortlisted status and warranted full evaluation by experts and five eventually emerged as winners. Subsequent seminars explored the implications of the awards. The Aga Khan established the program in 1977 to promote broader understanding of the role of architecture within Muslim cultures, but this year’s winners included a chairman’s award to the Islamic scholar Oleg Grabar, currently a professor at Princeton University, and projects outside the expected venues, with works in China and Spain.


Li Xiaodong

Bridge School
Li Xiaodong Atelier
Xiashi, Fujian Province, China
Small in scale but with a large idea, this bridge spans a creek, connecting both halves of the village. Dramatically, the contemporary structure counterpoises between paired toulou, or traditional, circular Chinese fortresses. Functionally, the project serves a number of uses: as a village school set within a pair of steel trusses covered in bamboo siding; and as a footbridge suspended below, which allows pedestrian passage. Realized on a tiny budget of roughly $100,000, the project contains a library and doubles as a community entertainment/puppet theater space. Slideshow

Photo © Award for Architecture / Li Xiaodong Atelier

Emre Arolat

Ipekyol Textile Factory
Emre Arolat Architects
Edirne, Turkey
Although factories in this part of the world often provide the bare minimum, this textile manufacturing facility places workers and management under a single roof, punctuated by five internal courtyards and enhanced by daylight. Gardens and views to nature offer a pleasant visual background for workers concentrating on their tasks. The structure employs sustainable design strategies, such as natural ventilation and water collection. In a video interview, a worker here exclaimed that the building was so pleasant that she now enjoyed spending time at work. Slideshow

Photo © EAA Architects

Nieto Sobejano

Madinat al Zahra Museum
Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos, Fuensanta Nieto & Enrique Sobejano
Cordoba, Spain
The context of this Spanish museum is literally and metaphorically embedded in its architecture, near one of “the largest and most significant early Islamic archaeological sites in the world, and the most extensive in Western Europe.” Arranged to surround preexisting sites, the structure helps the public interpret early Islamic culture while also serving as a research center. Subtly and beautifully realized, the museum combines a modulated sequence of interiors and courtyards. Slideshow

Photo © Nieto Sobejano Architects


Revitalisation of the Hypercenter Heritage of Tunis
Association de Sauvegarde de la Médina de Tunis
In the rush to dissociate themselves from their colonial pasts, contemporary societies frequently neglect their historic building fabric. Not so in Tunis, where a vigilant preservation group has revitalized the city’s old medina as well as its 19th- and early 20th-century heritage. The results of their efforts shine in the Ville Nouvelle of Tunis as well as in specific buildings, including the Theatre municipal de Tunis, the Marché central, and the Cinema Palace. Today, Tunis reflects the rich interchange that occurred between the northern and southern Mediterranean. Slideshow

Photo © Aga Khan Award for Architecture / Association de Sauvegarde de la Médina de Tunis

Wadi Hanifa Wetlands

Wadi Hanifa Wetlands
Moriyama & Teshima Planners & Buro Happold in Joint Venture
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Water purification might seem outside the purview of an architectural awards program, but the Wadi Hanifa Wetlands project is among this year’s most far-reaching in terms of planning and human amenity. The project team devised an ingenious system to cleanse the waters of Saudi Arabia’s primary natural drainage course, which had become polluted and burdened by an expanding population. In an ambitious and coordinated effort that began in 2001, leaders and planning-team members have transformed a blighted resource into a public parkland for Riyadh, with enhanced recreation and tourism opportunities. Slideshow

Photo © Aga Khan Award for Architecture / Arriyadh Development Authority

Faryar Javaherian

Making of a Jury
Faryar Javaherian, a historian and architect who cofounded Gamma Consulting in Tehran, served as a member of this year’s Aga Khan Award master jury. She offers an insider’s view of the selection process.

Photo © Aga Khan Award for Architecture

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