From innovative mud and bamboo schools to state of the art “green” high-rises, the Master Jury for the 2013 Aga Khan Award for Architecture has selected 20 deserving nominees to be in the running for the prestigious, US$1 million prize. Since the award was launched 36 years ago, over 100 projects have received the prize and more than 7,500 building projects have been documented for exhibiting architectural excellence and improving the overall quality of life in their regions.
Farrokh Derakhshani, the Director of the Award, remarked: “The Master Jury, which includes some of the most prominent architects of our time, made interesting choices this year. For example, they chose schools in Afghanistan and Syria, but they also chose a hospital in Sudan, a high rise in Bangkok and the reconstruction of a refugee camp in Lebanon. In many ways, the choices reflect a central preoccupation of the Award: the impact of buildings and public spaces on the quality of life. Now this seems fairly mainstream, but we must remember that the Aga Khan Award has been talking about ‘human scale’ and ‘sustainability’ since 1977”.
The 2013 Aga Khan Award for Architecture Shortlist includes:
Built in honour of Italian journalist Maria Grazia Cutuli, murdered in Afghanistan in 2001, this school represents an alternative approach to emergency school design for war-torn areas. Like a small village, the complex is intended to resemble an unplanned juxtaposing of elements enclosed by a boundary wall. It accommodates eight classrooms, various staff accommodation, a double-height library and a garden which acts as a ‘green classroom’. Built of reinforced concrete with brick cladding, the structures are painted rather than rendered, to save costs. The walls’ range of blue tones reflects the ‘lapis lazuli’ pigment used on local pottery, while window frames are in contrasting red.
The Cemetery serves Vorarlberg, the industrialised westernmost state of Austria, where over eight percent of the population is Muslim. It finds inspiration in the primordial garden, and is delineated by roseate concrete walls in an alpine setting, and consists of five staggered, rectangular grave-site enclosures, and a structure housing assembly and prayer rooms. The principal materials used were exposed reinforced concrete for the walls and oak wood for the ornamentation of the entrance facade and the interior of the prayer space. The visitor is greeted by and must pass through the congregation space with its wooden latticework in geometric Islamic patterns. The space includes ablution rooms and assembly rooms in a subdued palette that give onto a courtyard. The prayer room on the far side of the courtyard reprises the lattice-work theme with Kufic calligraphy in metal mesh on the ‘qibla’ wall.
The Museum is located close to a village at the foot of Gaoligong Mountain, in the province of Yunnan, an area of significant Muslim presence. It provides exhibition space for ancient paper craft and artifacts produced locally. Six galleries clustered around a courtyard form a micro-village. The exhibition is extended through displays of paper-craft in the village. Texture is articulated through local materials, formal expression and visual connection with the landscape. The spatial experience of the village is consolidated within the museum. Interior spaces alternate between galleries and views beyond. Accommodation on upper levels includes offices, tea and guest rooms. Local timber, bamboo, handcrafted paper, low energy-consuming and decomposable natural materials are used.
Rehabilitation of Nagaur Fort, Nagaur, Rajasthan, India / Minakshi Jain
At the heart of the ancient city of Nagaur, one of the first Muslim strongholds in northern India is the fort of Ahhichatragarh, built in the early 12th century and repeatedly altered over subsequent centuries. The project for its rehabilitation, involving the training of many artisanal craftsmen, adhered to principles of minimum intervention. Materials and construction methods of an earlier era were rediscovered, paintings and architectural features conserved, and the historic pattern of access through seven successive gates re-created. The finding and restoration of the intricate water system was a highlight: 90 fountains are now running in the gardens and buildings, where none were functional at the project’s outset. The fort’s buildings and spaces, both external and internal, serve as venue, stage and home to the Sufi Music Festival.
Preservation of the Mbaru Niang, Wae Rebo Village, Flores Island, Indonesia / Rumah Asuh/Yori Antar
Conical houses of ‘worok’ wood and bamboo in tied-together rattan construction with thatched roofs are the archetypal buildings of this remote island village. A group of young Indonesian architects in the habit of touring a part of Indonesia each year arrived to find four of the last surviving examples of these houses, two of which were in need of renovation. Symbols of unity in the family and the community, the houses represent a living culture; the villagers are guardians of this culture but the necessary building skills, having traditionally been handed down, from generation to generation, had faded from memory. The architects initiated and facilitated a community-led revival of traditional techniques enabling all the original houses to be rebuilt. In this a role was opened up to include university students who both participated in and documented this architectural preservation and cultural conservation project and continue to do so annually.
Apartment No.1, Mahallat, Iran / AbCT (Architecture by Collective Terrai)
The majority of Mahallat’s economy is engaged in the business of cutting and treating stone, over half of which is discarded due to inefficiencies in stone-cutting technology. This project turns the inefficiency to economic and environmental advantage by reusing leftover stones for both exterior and some interior walls, and has led to the increasing adoption of stone recycling by local builders. The five-storey structure comprises two ground-level retail spaces and eight three-bedroom apartments above. Its austere prismatic form is balanced by the warmth of the natural materials. Small windows are shielded by triangular stone protrusions, and larger ones have wooden shutters that allow residents to regulate light and temperature levels.
Rehabilitation of Tabriz Bazaar, Tabriz, Iran / ICHTO East Azerbaijan Office
The Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex was officially protected in 1975 and has been covered by special stewardship measures until 2010, when it was added to the World Heritage List. The complex covers 27 hectares with over 5.5 kilometres of covered bazaars. Three different protection areas have been established (a nominated area, a buffer zone and a landscape zone), subject to special regulations incorporated into the planning instruments. The management framework is based on the participation of the ‘bazaaris’, together with municipal authorities and ICHTO’s Tabriz Bazaar Base. Since 2000, numerous complexes within the bazaar have been rehabilitated with the participation of the owners and tenants. Infrastructure has been improved and public facilities have been built.The Tabriz Bazaar is a unique example of urban conservation and development project in which heritage plays a catalyst role in rejuvenating the tangible and intangible memory of the historic city of Tabriz.
Reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp, Tripoli, Lebanon / United Nations Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA), Nahr el-Bared Reconstruction Commission for Civil Action and Studies (NBRC)
Reconstructing a camp of 27,000 refugees which was 95% destroyed during the 2007 war involved a planning effort with the entire community, followed by a series of eight construction phases. Limited land and the exigency of recreating physical and social fabrics were primary considerations. Established in 1948, the camp followed the extended-family pattern and building typology of the refugees’ villages. In a layout where roads provided light and ventilation, the goal was to increase non-built areas from 11% to 35%. It was achieved by giving each building an independent structural system allowing for vertical expansion up to four floors on a reduced footprint.
Hassan II Bridge, Rabat, Morocco / Marc Mimran Architecture
Linking Rabat and Salé to form an urban hub, the Hassan II Bridge and its associated access works relieve both cities’ historic sites and populations of atmospheric and sound pollution. The design respects the overwhelming horizontally of the built and natural environments, allowing Rabat’s 12th-century Hassan Tower to retain its vertical dominance of the skyline. The concrete supports, in subtly varying arced forms, are deliberately delicate and lace-like in appearance. Besides providing transport connections, the structure also offers an urban roof over the alluvial plain of the Bouregreg River, creating a protected public space for markets and leisure activities.
Mohammed VI Football Academy, Salé, Morocco / Groupe 3 Architectes
Providing intensive football training and a school education to around fifty 13-to-18-year-olds, the Academy is designed to encourage both focus and a sense of community. It is arranged like a traditional douar (hamlet), with a central ‘village square’ around which stand five buildings respectively accommodating administrative, sports, teaching, lodging and catering functions. Each has a central landscaped patio for relaxation. The patio walls are each painted a colour that reflects an aspect of Morocco, while the buildings’ massive exteriors are sober white. Local ochre earth ties the complex to its environment, and is textured with gravel, river stones, concrete paving and timber decking.
Preservation of Sacred and Collective Oasis Sites, Guelmim Region, Morocco / Salima Naji
For the last decade Salima Naji, trained as an architect and anthropologist, has worked to save the heritage of several oasis towns in the anti-Atlas mountains of Morocco. This ambitious undertaking involves four sites that range in scale from communal granaries to partially abandoned fortified towns. Naji has carried out the work with skilled masons and unskilled workmen, whom she has trained in traditional building techniques and who go on to apply their skills at other sites. Architecture and public spaces have been conserved not only for their historic value, but as locally rooted, sustainable models for contemporary building. Throughout, Naji has encouraged a participatory process with new and traditional community groups and actors. Her work provides an alternative model for conservation in Morocco: one that insists on maintaining the link between local communities and their historic environments.
Revitalisation of Birzeit Historic Centre, Birzeit, Palestine / Riwaq – Centre for Architectural Conservation
This five-year project, part of a rehabilitation master plan initiated by Riwaq, has transformed the decaying town of Birzeit, created employment through conservation and revived vanishing traditional crafts in the process. Community involvement was encouraged from the start, including local NGOs, the private sector, owners, tenants and users, all working with the municipality. Both historic buildings and public spaces have been rehabilitated into community activity hubs. Replaced sections of wall remain distinguishable from the original structures, without harming architectural coherence. Lost features were replaced where there was clear evidence for their former appearance, such as floor tiles with Palestinian motifs. Affordable traditional techniques and local materials were used throughout. Where no historical models were available, new elements were made in a bold contemporary spirit.
Umubano Primary School, Kigali, Rwanda / Mass Design Group
The School’s seven buildings house nine classrooms and a library on a sloping site. Unique settings for education have been created to occur within a mix of interior rooms, exterior teaching areas – some of which are covered by sloping roofs – and terraced play spaces for children. Local materials such as brick and bamboo are used, and shading and natural ventilation is relied upon to reduce energy consumption. In the classrooms, light from clerestories above balances the light from windows. Curricula have been specifically developed to provide quality education for over 300 vulnerable or orphaned children. Adult evening classes are promoted and serve to improve literacy within the wider community.
The plan for the Centre takes inspiration from a motif etched on stones uncovered on the site at Mapungubwe Hill, a World Heritage site located at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers. Exhibition and learning spaces take the form of ten free-form vaults, the largest of which spans 14.5 metres, and a number of regular barrel vaults and domes which are arranged in a triangular layout linked together by ramped walkways. The vaulting method used relies on fast-setting gypsum mortar and earth tiles laid on edge. Low environmental impact is achieved through employing local labour and materials.
Post-Tsunami Housing, Kirinda, Sri Lanka / Shigeru Ban Architects
This project provides 100 houses in a Muslim fishing village, in the region of Tissamaharama, on the southeast coast of Sri Lanka, following the destruction caused by the 2004 tsunami. Shigeru Ban’s aim was to adapt the houses to their climate, to use local labour and materials to bring profit to the region, and to respond to the villagers’ own requirements through direct consultation. For example, kitchens and bathrooms are included within each house, as requested by the villagers, but a central covered area separates them from the living accommodation, as stipulated by the government. The covered area also provides an entertainment space from which women can retreat to maintain privacy. Local rubber-tree wood was used for partitions and fittings, and compressed earth blocks for walls.
Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery, Khartoum, Sudan / Studio Tamassociati
The Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery consists of a hospital with 63 beds and 300 local staff, with a separate Medical Staff Accommodation Compound sleeping 150 people. The centre is built as a pavilion in a garden with both primary buildings organized around large courtyards. The hospital block is of the highest technical standard with complex functions including three operating theatres optimally placed in relation to the diagnostics laboratories and ward. Mixed modes of ventilation and natural light enable all spaces to be homely and intimate yet secure. Seeing the abandoned containers that had been used to transport construction materials for the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery, the architects were inspired to reuse them to house the centre’s staff. Ninety 20-foot containers form the accommodation block, each unit consisting of 1.5 containers, with a bathroom and small veranda facing the garden. Seven 40-foot containers are occupied by a cafeteria and services. Insulation is through an ‘onion system’ of 5-centimetre internal insulating panels and an outer skin comprising a ventilated metal roof and bamboo blinds. A solar farm powers the water-heating system.
Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle, Damascus, Syria / Ateliers Lion Associés, Dagher Hanna & Partners
In designing school facilities in this desert climate, the architects opted for natural ventilation, a decision with crucial implications for the morphology of their solutions. The buildings are typically two-storey patio structures each giving onto a small, lush, and sheltered garden. The garden is the building block, creating the microclimate, feeding cool air into the ventilation system through PVC pipes, made to circulate by means of the updraft created by solar chimneys. The walls are double-block for its thermal properties: solid concrete on the inside and concrete breeze-blocks on the outside, separated by an air pocket. The classrooms are arranged in rows on both sides of major axes, in a pattern of alternating buildings and gardens.
Kantana Film and Animation Institute, Nakhon Prathom, Thailand / Bangkok Project Studio / Boonserm Premthada
Massive eight-metre-high handmade brick walls with undulating geometric profiles characterise this undergraduate college. They are supported by a steel inner structure, the cavity between inner and outer skin affording protection against heat transfer. The complex’s five different areas – administration office, lecture room, workshop, library and canteen – are all connected by an ‘inserted forest’ in the form of a greystone and concrete pathway punctuated by trees, running centrally along a solid east-west and a broken north-south axis. Where this extends beyond the confines of the functional buildings, openings in the walls provide relaxation spaces and a link with the green landscaping beyond.
Rather than adopting high-rise models from temperate countries, this 66-storey central Bangkok development adapts aspects of low-rise tropical housing to spaces in the sky. Naturally cross-ventilated, the apartments require no air conditioning. Open-air terraces with barbecues, libraries, spas and other facilities link the three towers every five storeys and act as structural bracing. The main columns extend on the exterior of the building, creating protected indoor-outdoor spaces for balconies and terraces, and are lit at night, transforming the building into an elegant, vertical screen. The staggered block arrangement gives apartments light and air on all four sides. Thai elements – ceramic tiles, textiles and timber panelling – are abstracted to organise forms. Every horizontal surface is planted, and vertical faces are shaded by creeper screens.
Thula Fort Restoration, Thula, Yemen / Abdullah Al-Hadrami
Threatened by the disruption that might ensue from the construction of a road, the Thula community, with the help of The Social Fund for Development, has undertaken a series of historic preservation projects to protect cultural assets, including rebuilding the walls of burial grounds and walls of agricultural terraces, restoring the Bab al Mayah gate, watch towers, paths and waterways, and repairing the cistern that remains in use to this day. Thula is well-known for artifacts from the Sabaean period and its prototypical massive stone architecture. During the preservation process an archaeological site was discovered with gates and walls that should provide further insights into the Sabaeans and their civilization.
The shortlisted projects are now being technically reviewed by a select group of architects, urban planners and engineers. The reviews, which emphasize both the impact on the quality of life and architectural excellence, will be submitted in June to the Master Jury for closer evaluation. Five to six finalists will then be selected and announced at a ceremony to be held in Lisbon in September 2013.