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Aga Khan Foundation announces 2016 award for architecture winners

Projects by Zaha Hadid, Bjarke Ingels, more clinch the $1 million, triennially bestowed prize

What do a high design public plaza in Copenhagen, a library and arts center in Beijing, and a pedestrian bridge in Tehran have in common? They’re three of the six winners of this year’s prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture, which is bestowed triennially on works of design that benefit global Muslim communities. Whittled down from a group of 19 shortlisted works, a steering committee (David Adjaye among them) and master jury convened to make the final decision.

Among the projects tapped for the prize by the Switzerland-based nonprofit Aga Khan Foundation—founded in 1967 by His Highness the Aga Khan, the "49th hereditary Imam (Spiritual Leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims," according to the organization’s website—are works by Bjarke Ingels (who worked with firm Superflex on the roughly 323,000-square-foot "Superkilen" hybrid public playground and civic art space); the late Zaha Hadid, who designed the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the University of Beirut in Lebanon; and a training center in rural Bangladesh by Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury and Urbana. The honor comes with a $1 million cash prize for each of the design groups responsible for winning projects.

It’s a far-reaching list of winners (and you can read more about all of them below), displaying the breadth of geographic, linguistic, and cultural diversity of the "Muslim world" at a time of increased international conversation about—and tension around—Muslim immigrants, refugees, and their communities.

Read on for a few photos of each work, and find out more about the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and the foundation at their website.

Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs

Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects

The architect responded to the project brief by producing a design that significantly reduces the building's footprint by "floating" a reading room, a workshop conference room and research spaces above the entrance courtyard in the form of a 21-metre-long cantilever in order to preserve the existing landscape...

The massing and volume distribution fits very well with the topography, and the nearby Ficus and Cyprus trees are perfectly integrated with the project. The building’s construction is a continuation of the 20th century Lebanese construction culture of working with fair-faced concrete.

Tabiat Pedestrian Bridge

Designed by Diba Tensile Architecture / Leila Araghian, Alireza Behzadi

The architects first conceived the two-to-three level, 270-metre-long curved pedestrian bridge of varying width, a complex steel structure featuring a dynamic three-dimensional truss with two continuous deck levels that sits on three tree shape columns, with a third where the truss meets the column branches. It was an imaginative leap beyond the basic competition brief of designing a bridge to connect two parks separated by a highway in northern Tehran, without blocking the view to the Alborz Mountains.


Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Superflex, Topotek 1

A meeting place for residents of Denmark’s most ethnically diverse neighbourhood and an attraction for the rest of the city, this project was approached as a giant exhibition of global urban best practice. In the spring of 2006 the street outside the architects’ Copenhagen office erupted in vandalism and violence. Having just gone through the design of a Danish mosque in downtown Copenhagen, BIG chose to focus on those initiatives and activities in urban spaces that work as promoters for integration across ethnicity, religion, culture and languages.

Hutong Children’s Library & Art Centre

Designed by ZAO/standardarchitecture / Zhang Ke

The courtyard is about 300-400 years old and once housed a temple that was then turned into residences in the 1950s. Over the past fifty or sixty years, each family built a small add-on kitchen in the courtyard. Almost all of them have been wiped out with the renovation practices of the past years. In redesigning, renovating and reusing the informal add-on structures instead of eliminating them, it was intended to recognise them as an important historical layer and as a critical embodiment of Beijing’s contemporary civil life in Hutongs that has so often been neglected.

Friendship Centre

Designed by Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury/Urbana

The Centre was created to train staff of an NGO working with people inhabiting nearby chars, or riverine islands. Offices, a library, meeting rooms, and prayer and tea rooms are included in pavilion-like buildings surrounded by courts and pools. The Centre is also rented out for meetings, training, and conferences for income generation. The local hand-made brick construction has been inspired by the monastic aesthetic of the 3rd century BC ruins of Mahasthangahr, the earliest urban archaeological site yet found in Bangladesh.

Bait Ur Rouf Mosque

Designed by Marina Tabassum

After a difficult life and the loss of her husband and near relatives, the client donated a part of her land for a mosque to be built. A temporary structure was erected. After her death, her grand-daughter, an architect, acted on her behalf as fundraiser, designer, client and builder to bring the project to completion.