The 1995 Aga Khan Award for Architecture

Twelve winners of the 1995 Aga Khan Award for Architecture were announced on November 25, in Solo, Indonesia. Each of them, in the new of the 1995 Award Master Jury, makes a statement in a new critical discourse on architecture. "The architectural and social problems facing Muslim societies require a sharper critique than they have received in the past," the Master Jury declared following its final deliberations in June 1995.

During its discussions of the 442 projects nominated for the 1995 Award, three types of critical discourse came to shape the debate: critical social discourse, critical architectural and urbanistic discourse, and discourse about innovative concepts. The categories which organized their debate have become the categories of the 1995 Award.

Five projects have been recognized for their contribution to a critical social discourse: the Restoration of Bukhara Old City (Uzbekistan), Conservation of Old Sana'a (Yemen), Reconstruction of Hafsia Quarter, Phase II (Tunis, Tunisia), Khuda-ki-Basti Incremental Development Scheme (Hyderabad, Pakistan), and Aranya Community Housing (Indore, India).

Three projects have been awarded prizes in the category of critical architectural and urbanistic discourse: the Great Mosque of Riyadh and Redevelopment of the Old City Centre (Saudi Arabia), the Menara Mesiniaga (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), and the Kaedi Regional Hospital (Mauritania). The third category reflects the Jury's decision to encourage bold ideas and risk-taking as well as strictly conceived architectural merit.

For their innovative concepts, the Master Jury has conferred awards on the Mosque of the Grand National Assembly (Ankara, Turkey), the Alliance Franco-Senegalaise (Kaolack, Senegal), the Landscaping Integration of the Soekarno-Hatta Airport (Cengkareng, Indonesia) and the Middle East Technical University Re-Forestation Program (Ankara, Turkey).

With these choices, the Master Jury has sought to distinguish multiple alternatives to the impasses in architecture and society today. The messages that the winning projects convey are, in the new of the Jury, of "universal relevance and constitute and important contribution that the architecture of Muslim societies today can make to the architectural and social discourse of the world." The 1995 Aga Khan Award for Architecture has thus been designed to engage a new thinking process, able to move beyond conventional ideologies of modernism as well as fundamentalist approaches to tradition.

The 1995 Master Jury, which met in Geneva three times over the past two years, has taken the unprecedented step of making its debates and its critiques of the winning projects public in a book, Architecture Beyond Architecture: Creativity and Social Transformation in Islamic Cultures, which will be published by Academy Editions, London, at the time of the Award ceremony.

Restoration of Bukhara Old City, Bukhara, Uzbekistan Managed by the municipality and supported by the community, the current program for the revitalization of the Old City of Bukhara has succeeded in integrating the historic core into the modern city. Many of Bukhara's more than 500 monuments are being restored using traditional materials like baked brick and ganj mortar; they also incorporate modern materials like reinforced concrete in order to comply with contemporary state regulations for earthquake protection. The buildings are being reused: retail trade is thriving in restored trading domes, the Mir-I-Arab madrasa is functioning, and other restored buildings have become craft centres or ateliers. Streets have been paved, electricity supplies have been upgraded, and a sewage system installed. The project proves that historic sites can be more than museums or tourist attractions: restored and reused, they can function as integral parts of flourishing and bustling contemporary cities.

Conservation of Old Sana'a, Sana'a, Yemen Sana'a's highly decorated multi-storey houses, tall minarets, and vegetable gardens define a unique urban landscape which the General Organization for the Preservation of the Historic Cities of Yemen (GOPHCY), supported by international and bilateral development agencies, is striving to preserve and revitalize. Since the 1980's, water and drainage systems have been upgraded, telephone and electricity lines have been installed, and an especially successful paving project has revitalized parts of the old city. Better hygiene and services have hopefully arrested the deterioration of the quality of life in areas of old Sana'a. the conservation project, which has greatly benefited from support of UNESCO and other external agencies, has set in motion a positive dynamic. It proves that even under difficult conditions, much can be done to meet the challenges of old cities.

Reconstruction of Hafsia Quarter II, Tunis, Tunisia The integrated approach to the Hafsia quarter of the median of Tunis has succeeded in reversing deterioration which began under the French protectorate, when wealthy families abandoned the neighborhood for the new "European" city. Phase II of the Hafsia Project, designed by the Association de Sauvegarde de la Medina de Tunis (ASM), has achieved major improvements in the infrastructure while preserving and strengthening the traditional urban fabric of the medina. It has also revitalized the quarter's commercial area, replaced or rehabilitated much of its dilapidated housing, and fostered a new mix of inhabitants, of different income levels, in the quarter. Phase I of the Hafsia Quarter project won an Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1983. The ASM's successful treatment, in Phase II, of the complex institutional and financial issues involved in the reconstruction of historic areas has made this project worthy of study and emulation.

Khuda-ki-Basti Incremental Development Scheme, Hyderabad, Pakistan The Khuda-ki-Basti Incremental Development Scheme (KKB) was launched in 1986 by the Hyderabad Development Agency (HDA), whose director, Tasneem Siddiqui, wanted to design a program capable of really reaching the urban poor. To attract the lowest income groups, HDA stipulated that candidates had to settle on their plots before housing and infrastructure were built, and began building within 14 days. Thereafter, how and what they built was up to them to decide. Water and electricity are available when residents are ready to obtain them; the project's unique sewage system funnels treated waste water into adjacent agricultural land and transforms solid waste into fertilizer. This project is financially sustainable and economically viable, and proves that it is possible to reach people usually considered to be unreachable.

Aranya Community Housing, Indore, India The Indore Development Authority's project to create Aranya township took shape in the early 1980's, a time of increasing awareness in India that conventional housing program had failed to reach the very poor. Instead of subsidizing standard housing units, the Vastu-Shilpa Foundation focused on the provision of secure tenure, basic infrastructural services, and a "service core" for the future dwellings of the poorest owners which could be developed individually. The master plan includes a business district which functions as a central spine for six sectors, each of which combines shops, offices and housing for a mix of different income groups. Good infrastructure was considered the most critical element in the project, which sought to catalyze the development of neighborhoods and street life through overlapping, interactive domestic and community spaces where different communal groups could meet and mix. The unusual involvement of a "Signature architect" in low-cost housing has had notable impact on the quality of construction in this project, which is also significant for the way it promotes inter-communal co-operation and tolerance through its original spatial arrangements.

Great Mosque of Riyadh and Redevelopment of the Old City Centre, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia The growth of Riyadh, from a town of 25,000 inhabitants in 1950 to a city of over 3 million people today, has virtually obliterated the traditional building style of Saudi Arabia's Najd province, characterized by mud brick, flat roofs, and a distinctive decorative style. The Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA)'s project for the development of the old town as the core of the new city represents a powerful alternative: it has brought new construction into balance with the traditional architectural idiom and spatial relationships. Architect, native: Rasem Badran has defined the central core of Riyadh through a series of open spaces, including plaza's, fountains, and courtyards, that connect the Great Mosque to its surroundings. His approach combines a reinterpretation of traditional Najdi architecture with an innovative yet unobtrusive use of modern materials and technologies.

Kaedi Regional Hospital, Kaedi, Mauritania On behalf of the Association pour le Development naturel d'une Architecture et d'un Urbanisme Africains (ADAUA), Fabrizio Carola has built a low cost extension to the local hospital in Kaedi which uses a new locally produced structural brick in an original design of domes, vaults and arches. The complex, elegant structures of the extension, which includes wards, operating theatres, storerooms, consultation rooms, and corridors, are providing improved medical and primary health care to a primarily rural population of patients, whose families can be accommodated in open, domed shelter areas created within the extension grounds. Use of brick has spared timber in a deforested region; the doughnut and ovoid forms of the hospital's diverse units represent an original contribution to the art of brick building. The new hospital has become a source of pride to the people it serves, and proves that modern architecture which is innovative, affordable, and appropriate can be created in the region.

Menara Mesiniaga, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia IBM's fifteen-storey "bio-climatic" tower in Kuala Lumpur is a strong alternative to the usual corporate high-rise building. Its concrete and steel structure is thrown into relief by a clear spatial hierarchy: a raised green base created by the entrance garden; spiraling, terraced gardens that wind around the whole height of the building; and a tubular crown on the roof (which houses a gymnasium and swimming pool, and will later accommodate solar panels). This "garden in the sky" successfully realizes the goals which the architect, Ken Yeang, has set for climatically responsive skyscrapers in tropical environments: reducing costs by lowering energy consumption, making maximum use of natural light and ventilation, and integrating ecological values and benefits into the structure. it applies an international, "high tech" architectural vocabulary to concepts of environmental responsiveness in ways that weld it to its site in a surprisingly "local" way.

The Mosque of the Grand National Assembly, Ankara, Turkey This mosque, a low-key structure which deliberately avoids the monumentalism of the National Assembly complex where it is located, moves beyond conventional mosque architecture and points toward new direction in layout and design. Much of the mosque complex is hidden within the slope of the site, only parts of it rising above the surrounding landscape. This horizontal quality is reinforced by a fragmentary, abstract treatment of the conventional vocabulary. The minaret is represented by two balconies and a cypress tree; the dome is replaced by a terraced pyramid which gives the impression of growing out of the landscape. The mosque also incorporates completely new spatial arrangements, including a glass qibla wall and mihrab. The view is onto a sunken, terrace garden. This mosque eschews dependence upon the architectural conventions of the past; it defines both religious space through the treatment of form, space and light, and the relationships of landscape and building.

Alliance Franco-Senegalaise, Kaolack,Senegal The decorative audacity of architect anthropologist Patrick Durjarric has given exceptional resonance to the modern vernacular building housing this new cultural centre in Kaolack, a regional centre in Senegal. it uses technologies and materials common throughout the region in a three-part design - including classrooms, an open-air theatre, and an exhibition space - which has an open, village-like aspect and a familiar, domestic scale. The modesty of this popular, functional cultural centre is however, belied by the virtuoso ornamentation of its different surfaces. Walls, PVC pipes, window screen, and floors all exploit the rich decorative resources of West Africa, from fabric designs to earth brick claustras. The result is an integration of ornament and structure which uses Africa's traditions in a totally original manner within a contemporary public building, and asks important questions about the ways in which buildings today can function as media.

Re-Forestation Program of the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey The campus of the Middle East Technical University (METU) was established in 1956 on a degraded, barren site outside Ankara, a heavily polluted city which suffered from dry summers and sever winters. The new university was determined to reclaim the site and model it through re-forestation and landscaping, and nearly 9 million conifers and over 22 million deciduous trees have been planted since 1961 Non-irrigational plantings cover most of the vast site; plants that require irrigation are principally located within the university's landscaped pedestrian network. Due to this project, once indigenous flora have returned to the area as have some 150 different animal species. Ankara has become less polluted and its climate more temperate, and the whole city is now involved in a greening process. The significance of the project's success goes beyond re-forestation and suggests that sensitive urban planning can provide approaches to two major contemporary crises: the disappearance of wilderness and the mass extinction of species.

Landscaping Integration of the Soekarno-Hatta Airport, Cengkareng, Jakarta, Indonesia With airport terminals conceived as open pavilions embedded in the tropical landscape, Paul Andreu's design for the Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Jakarta combines nature, Javanese culture, and a facility serving 18 million passengers per year. Closeness to nature has been the keynote through both phases of the airport's construction: each terminal is set in sculptured gardens which include facilities for gathering or contemplation, and the design serves as a unique introduction to the open landscape and the culture of Indonesia even as it meets exacting technological requirements. For Terminal II, the airport authorities requested changes, including partitions between the landscape and the pavilions. Now, the second terminal retains the relationship to landscape and the visual impact of the first.

(Source: Ismaili Canada Nov 1995)

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