Monday, September 9, 2013

Aga Khan Award for Architecture recognizes two projects in Africa

TWO African projects are among the five in the world which have scooped this year’s Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2013. The winning projects were awarded each with cash prize $ 200,000 (equivalent to Sh. 320 million)  by Portuguese President Cavaco Silva at a gala ceremony which took place this week on Friday night at the Castle of Saint George in Lisbon, Portugal and attended by His Highness the Aga Khan. Also in attendance were the Portuguese Vice-Prime Minister Paulo Portas, Lisbon city mayor António Costa, members of the diplomatic corps and other distinguished guests. The 90 minutes occasion was a global event through video conference all over the world where the Aga Khan, head of the Ismailia worldwide Shiite denomination, engages in socioeconomic and investment initiatives across the world. In Tanzania the occasion was witnessed live at the Aga Khan Mosque in the city centre. The two most impressive African projects which have won the award are among hundreds nominated entries collected all over the world. These are the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery built in Khartoum, Sudan and Rabat-Salé Urban Infrastructure Project in Morocco. Others are Islamic Cemetery built in Altach, Austria, and the Rehabilitation of Tabriz Bazaar which is in Tabriz, Iran as well as the Revitalization of Birzeit Historic Centre in Birzeit, Palestine His Highness the Aga Khan, who is also the chairman of the award steering committee said in his key note address that this is the twelfth time over 36 years that the award has been presented and is only the second one to have been held in a predominantly Christian country. “While its roots lie deep in our concern for the state of Islamic architecture, the award is also committed to a spirit of pluralism and a respect for diversity, a set of values which are deeply embedded in Portuguese history,” he said. The internationally acclaimed award was established by the Aga Khan in 1977 mainly to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of communities in which Muslims have a significant presence. 

His Highness The Aga Khan.

The award recognizes examples of architectural excellence in the fields of contemporary design, social housing, community improvement and development, historic preservation and area conservation, as well as landscape design and environmental improvement and is given once in three years. The Aga Khan Award for Architecture issues US$ 1 million prize divided among the five recipients, which does not necessarily go to the architect, says Alkarim Hirani, the coordinator of Aga Khan functions in the city. He said during the occasion that the award also identifies municipalities, builders, clients, master craftsmen and engineers who have played important roles in the realization of a project. The Master Jury has the discretion to apportion the prize money however it sees fit, the official noted. Since the award was launched 36 years ago, 110 projects have received the award and nearly 8000 building projects have been documented.
The Aga Khan Award for Architecture is part of the Geneva-based Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), which has a wide range of activities aimed at the preservation and promotion of the material and spiritual heritage of Muslim societies.  Over the past decade, it has been engaged in the rehabilitation of historic areas in Cairo, Kabul, Herat, Aleppo, Delhi, Zanzibar, Mostar, northern Pakistan, Timbuktu and Mopti. The trust also supports the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture (AKPIA) at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States. The awards are selected from every continent by an independent Master Jury appointed by the steering committee for each three-year award cycle. The nine members of the Master Jury for the 2010-2013 award cycle were selected from the United Kingdom, Lebanon and France. Others came from Uganda, Malaysia, the US, Turkey and China.

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