Diverse projects shortlisted in Aga Khan Award architecture contest

Sunday 22/05/2016
King Fahd National Library, Riyadh.

London - Nineteen projects, in­cluding several from the Middle East, have been shortlisted for the 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture with a $1 million grand prize a stake.
The final group of nominees was chosen out a pool of 348 architec­tural works from across the world. The 2016 finalists represent pro­jects ranging from the majestically grandiose to the charmingly sim­plistic. All showcase the award’s spirit of celebrating innovation and conservation.
Farrokh Derakhshani, director of the Aga Khan Award for Architec­ture, said the chief criterion was the “excellence in the progress” as sometimes the intended result is not aesthetically pleasing.
“The only change that took place about 30 years ago was that in the eligibility criteria was 25 years, now it is six years,” Derakhshani said, highlighting that projects today are built much faster than they were 40 years ago.
“We’ve also seen all the old pro­jects and they’ve been covered,” he added.
A shortlisted project out of Bei­jing is Micro Yuan’er Children’s Library & Art Centre, a small-scale project in Cha’er Hutong, a resi­dential area 1km from Tiananmen Square. The project is a 9-metre-square library built of plywood that was inserted underneath the pitched roof of an existing build­ing. The courtyard it is built in is 300-400 years old and once housed a temple.
Another project up for the award is the King Fahd National Library in Riyadh. The library, which was completed in 2013, is an aesthetic expansion, which sees a new pro­ject built on top of an older one. The cuboid shape of the new build­ing surrounds the old 1980s library building, giving the library a new appearance in the cityscape.
Saudi projects have received the Aga Khan Award on nine occasions, most recently in 2010 when the Wadi Hanifa Wetlands was hon­oured. Other winners include the Tuwaiq Palace in Riyadh; the Great Mosque in Riyadh; Al-Kindi Plaza in Riyadh; the Corniche Mosque in Jeddah: the Hayy Assafarat Land­scaping project in Riyadh; the Min­istry of Foreign Affairs in Riyadh; the Hajj Terminal in Jeddah; and the Intercontinental Hotel and Conference Centre in Mecca.
Another eye-catching project from the Middle East is the Royal Academy for Nature Conservation in Ajloun, Jordan. The project was proposed to be on a site inside a nature conservancy reserve but the architect convinced the client to use an adjacent abandoned quarry, which is outside the reserve. The academy provides educational pro­grammes on the environment and features a high-end restaurant. The academy is devoted to the conser­vation of Jordan’s natural resourc­es, including wildlife.
Other projects nominated are in Qatar, Iran, Kosovo and Spain, among other locations.
A unique aspect of the award, which is given out every three years, is that it not only recog­nises efforts of the architect but also identifies the municipalities, builders, clients and engineers who have played an integral part in the completion of a project. Its man­date is different from other archi­tecture prizes, as it selects projects — from slum upgrading to high-rise “green” buildings — that exhibit ar­chitectural excellence and improve the overall quality of life.
Since the award was launched in 1977, more than 110 projects have been honoured and more than 9,000 building projects have been documented. The 2016 winner is to be announced in November.