Karim Aga Khan
The loss of our inheritance of cultural pluralism, the identity it conveys to members of diverse societies, and the originally it represents and stimulates in all of them will impoverish our societies now and into the future. Sustaining this inheritance will require conscious and concerned efforts involving the best minds and most creative institutions around the world, efforts that must be grounded in an informed understanding of history and cultural context, and yet be forward looking and imaginative as they address the needs of contemporary societies. This work will require an enabling environment, characterized by open and unfettered debate of ideas, a trust in cultural diversity, the celebration and reward of innovation, and a commitment to civil society and pluralistic government.
Cultures of the developing world must establish a presence on the rapidly growing information superhighway to balance those that currently dominate the new electronic media. This will requirement an investment of time and resources, and a mastery of regional and international language. Unless these cultures develop creditable and creative ways to preset themselves effectively in this new and powerful medium of communication, cultural pluralism will suffer a massive setback.
Aga Khan Award for Architecture was established in 1977 to enhance the understanding and appreciation of Islamic culture as expressed through architecture. By means of its triennial Award, publications and exhibitions and international conferences and seminars held in most of the countries, in which Muslims live and work, the Award brings to the attention of architects, planners, preservationists and those in related professions, as well as governmental and cultural leaders, the entire 1400 year old architectural cultural of Islam.
Its method is to seek out and recognize examples of architectural excellence encompassing concerns as varied as contemporary design, social housing, community improvement and development, restoration, reuse, and area conservation, as well as landscaping and environment issues. Through its efforts, the Award seeks to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of societies, in which Muslims have a significant presence.
The selection process emphasizes architecture that not only provides for people's physical, social, and economic needs, but that also stimulates and respond to their cultural and spiritual expectations. Particular attention is given to build schemes that use local resources and appropriate technology in an innovative way, and to projects likely to inspire similar efforts elsewhere.
The Award is organized of the basis of a calendar spanning, a 3-year cycle, and is governed by a Steering Committee, chaired by Aga Khan. Prizes totaling up to US$500,000, the largest architectural Award in the world, are presented every 3 year to projects, selected by an independent Master Jury. The Award has completed 7 cycles of activity since 1977, and documentation has been complied on over 6000 building projects, located throughout the world. To date, master juries have identified 75 projects to receive Awards. The eight Award cycle covers the period from 1991 to 2001.
Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Aga Khan's concern with the cultural dimension of development, and the experience gained through the Award, led to the establishment, in 1988, of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which now incorporated the Award. The Trust's two other major areas of activity are the Education and culture Program and the Historic Cities Support Program.
The Education and culture Program has 3 interrelated long term goals: improving the training of architectural professionals for work in Islamic world, increasing cross-cultural understanding of Islamic architecture and the intimate between architecture and culture in Islamic civilizations, and creating greater awareness and appreciation of the diversity and pluralism of Muslim cultures. Activities draw upon resources generated by the Trust's other programs, including materials in the Trust archives in Geneva and those developed since 1979 at the AK Program for Islamic Architecture (AKPIA) at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The Education and Culture Program is currently providing support for the development and operation of a new website. Arch Net, devoted to architecture, conservation ,and planning. It is being developed at MIT and will incorporate material from a wide array of sources including the Trust, AKPIA, and selected schools of architecture in Islamic World.
Through the Historic Cities Support Program, established in 1992, the Trust undertakes direct interventions aimed at the revitalization of historic urban settlements in Islamic world, focusing on physical rehabilitation of physical in conjunction with community participation, training, and local institution building. Past or current project sites in Hunza (North Pakistan), Cairo, Zanzibar, Samarkent, Granada and Syria include the conservation of landmark buildings, community-based upgrading of historic settlements, strategic planning assistance to local authorities, and the improvement of major public open spaces within or adjacent to historic cities.
Award Procedures: Project Eligibility
The Award seeks out the broadest possible range of architectural interventions: restoration and social efforts are considered, as are contemporary design projects and those demonstrating the use of appropriate technologies.
Protection of the built and natural environments, new approaches to the need for shelter, the changing role of public urban spaces, and workplaces and factories are also all encompassed in the group of projects, submitted for consideration during each Award cycle. Eligibility criteria for the current cycle focus on projects, completed during the 12-year old period, from 1988 to 2001. Accordingly, eligible projects must have been completed and in use for at least one full year between the period first January and 31st December 2000.
Although there are no fixed criteria as to the type, nature, location or cost of projects to be considered for the Award, eligible projects must be designed for or used by Muslim communities, in part or in whole, wherever they are located. To ensure the continuing impartiality of the Award procedures, no projects undertaken by current members of the Award Steering Committee, Master Jury or staff, nor by the Board or staff may be considered.
Tominations are the official means of enrolment of projects to be considered for the Award. The submission of a wide range of projects is insured by a network of nominators, designated by the Award for each cycle. This volunteer group comprises architects, professionals, scholars and other, who are familiar with current architectural developments in Muslim societies. The identity of nominators is strictly confidential, as are the names of nominated projects.
In addition to the nomination procedures, the Award has development a project identification program, which is open to all persons or institutions, who wish to bring projects to the attention of the Award. The project identification program ensures a broad geographic and architectural representation of projects, and updates the Award archives on building activity in the Muslim world.
To register a project, preliminary documentation forms may be obtained by the Award Office or by visiting the Award Website. Projects received through the identification program are forwarded to nominators, who may choose, but are not required them for the Award.
The architects of projects enrolled through the nomination program receive an Award documentation package, which describes the standardized presentation requirements. In addition to submitting photographs, slides and architectural drawings, architects are asked to complete a detail questionnaire to use, cost, environmental and climate factors, construction materials, building schedule and more importantly, design concepts and each project's significance within its own context.
Review & Selection Procedures
The review of projects and selection of Award recipients is the responsibility of an independent Master Jury, specially appointed for each Award cycle. The Master Jury holds two meetings to arrive at its final decision. Each jury is pluridisciplinary and brings together specialists in such fields as sociology, history, philosophy, architectural conversation, archeology and contemporary arts, with practicing architects and urban planners.
At its first meeting, the jury reviews approximately 500 submissions enrolled through the nomination program. The jurors examine the documentation on each project and those it retains (approximately 25-30 projects) are subject to on-site by members of Technical Review teams selected by the Award.
On-Site Technical Review:
The Technical Reviewers are architectural professionals specialized in various disciplines, including housing, urban planning, landscape design and restoration. Their task is to examine on-site each of the projects short-listed by the Master Jury, verify project data and seek additional information such as user reactions. The reviewers must consider a detailed set of criteria in their written reports and must also respond to the specific concerns and questions prepared by the Master Jury for each project. To ensure maximum objectivity, reviewers report on projects located outside their native countries.
Selection of Award Recipients:
The Master Jury studies the finding presented by the Technical Reviewers on each short-listed project during a final week-long meeting. After evaluating the projects in closed sessions, the jurors select the Award recipients and determine the apportionment of the $500,000 prize fund.
Since the success of a winning project may be the product of efforts by diverse individuals, groups and organizations, the Master Jury apportion prizes among the contributors, architects, other design and construction professionals, craftsmen, clients and institutions, whom it considers most responsible for the success of each project. The decisions of the Master Jury are Final.
The Chairman's Award was established to honor achievements that fall outside the scope of the Master Jury's mandate and is made in recognition of the lifetime achievements of the distinguished architects. The Chairman's Award has been presented on two occasions: in 1980, to the Egyptian architect and urban planner, Hassan Fathy, and in 1986, to Rifat Chadirji, and Iraqi architect and educator.
International and Regional Seminars
To reach out a wider audience, the Award has organized international and regional seminars during each cycle. International seminars examine the trends and implications of architectural transformations in Islamic world, while regional seminars explore architecture in Islamic cultures in a specific area. Designed to address developments in the built environments of Muslims, they bring together government officials, architects, academics, planner, social scientists, designers and architectural writers. Since the Award's inception, 19 seminars have been held in various parts of the world, including Paris, Istanbul, Fez, Jakarta, Amman, Beijing, Dakar, Sana'a, Kuala Lumpur, Cairo, Malta, Zanzibar, Yogyakarta, Almaty, Baku and Beirut.
Other important activities under a wide focus of public education, such as "Architecture for a Changing World", a major retrospective exhibition on the Award, sponsored by International Foundation for Architectural Synthesis (Spain), and public lectures by members of steering Committees and Master Juries.
Conserving the documentation of the building projects, which have come under consideration has been one of the goals of the Award and the materials gathered over each 3-year Award cycle from the major part of the library and visual collections of the AK Trust for Culture. The visual collections consists of over 200,000 slides, prints and negatives, as well as the special portfolios of Award projects.
The library consists of books, information on architects and firms, reports, special case studies and ongoing subscriptions to architectural periodicals, along with newsletters, bulletins, journals, chronicles and unpublished reports. The library provides interested individual access to the collections by appointment and responds to request for information from external sources.
The Award publishes the proceeding of its international and regional seminars, as well as cyclical monographs recording the recipients and discussions of each Award cycle. Most Award publications are available in English; some are also published in Arabic, French and Chinese. Further information may be obtained by contacting the Award Office or on the website