The Aga Khan Award for Architecture is more about people than about the architecture

The Award was born out of concern for the quality of life, rather than just the professional dynamics of architecture as it has been known in the western world. In fact, we saw that as a moral obligation.”

His Highness the Aga Khan

Yousef Nasser accepting the award for the revitilisation of the Birzeit Historic Centre. (Photo: AKDN)
Yousef Nasser acceptingthe award for the revitilisation of the Birzeit Historic Centre. (Photo: AKDN)

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture, established by His Highness the Aga Khan in 1977, “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 responds to their cultural and spiritual expectations.”*

In an interview with His Highness the Aga Khan, Philip Jodido, Editor of Under the Eaves of Architecture, asked His Highness: “Is the Award not more about the well-being of people than it is about architecture in the sense usually used by the professional community, particularly in the West?”

His Highness replied: “Yes, I think that is correct. The Award was born out of concern for the quality of life, rather than just the professional dynamics of architecture as it has been known in the western world. In fact, we saw that as a moral obligation. Had we restricted this notion only to parts of the developing world which were “architectured,” we would have been dealing with five percent of the buildings. The vast majority of the buildings in the developing world are not “architectured” buildings in the sense of the Western profession.

That does not mean that quality buildings do not happen….The Award was very definitely an initiative to recognize the process of building quality.”

Architecture improving the quality of life – one of the recipients of the 2013 cycle was the revitalisation of the Birzeit Historic Centre. This five-year project has transformed the decaying town of Birzeit, created employment through conservation, and revived the vanishing traditional crafts in the process. Both historic buildings and public spaces have been rehabilitated into community activity hubs. Aga Khan Award for Architecture

References:
*Aga Khan Award for Architecture
Video, 2013 Award Ceremony

Compiled by Nimira Dewji

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