Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2022 puts the spotlight on community and culture

The winners of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2022 respond to social issues and extend an architectural responsibility toward communities, culture and environment.

by Sunena V MajuPublished on : Sep 24, 2022

On September 22, 2022, the Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA) announced the six winners for its 15th cycle (2020-2022). Established by His Highness the Aga Khan in 1977, the architecture award is governed by a Steering Committee comprising renowned personalities such as Sheikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, Emre Arolat, Meisa Batayneh, Sir David Chipperfield, Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Nasser Rabbat, Marina Tabassum and Sarah M Whiting. The latest edition of the award witnessed a nomination of 463 projects that identified and addressed the needs of communities, cultures and social issues. A master jury including Anne Lacaton, Francis Kéré, Nader Tehrani, Nada Al Hassan, Kader Attia, Kazi Khaleed Ashraf, Lina Ghotmeh, Professor Sibel Bozdoğan and Amale Andraos shortlisted 20 exceptional projects from an array of entries. Photographs of which were displayed in an exhibition in King's Cross as part of an Outdoor Art Project, which coincided with the London Festival of Architecture. Among the shortlisted projects were Lilavati Lalbhai Library at CEPT University in Ahmedabad, India by RMA architects; Jadgal Elementary School in Iran by DAAZ Office; Niamey 2000 in Niger by united4design which responded to the housing shortage issues; and Rehabilitation of 1937 building of Manama Post Office in Bahrain to its original form and function by Studio Anne Holtrop. While many interesting projects were brought to the forefront through the awards, the projects which showed commitment toward communities, innovation and care for the environment were named the winners. Argo Contemporary Art Museum & Cultural Centre; Banyuwangi International Airport; Community Spaces in Rohingya Refugee Response; Kamanar Secondary School; Renovation of Niemeyer Guest House and Urban River Spaces were named the winners of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2022.

Argo Contemporary Art Museum & Cultural Centre, Iran

  • Argo Contemporary Art Museum & Cultural Centre in Iran by ASA North | Aga Khan Award for Architecture | AKAA | STIRworld
    Argo Contemporary Art Museum & Cultural Centre in Iran by ASA North Image: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Deed Studio
  • Visitors enter the museum through a courtyard that is directly connected to the street, allowing larger events to overspill into the public space | Aga Khan Award for Architecture | AKAA | STIRworld
    Visitors enter the museum through a courtyard that is directly connected to the street, allowing larger events to overspill into the public space Image: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Deed Studio
  • Adorning the interiors are freestanding white concrete staircase and cutouts connecting the different levels | Aga Khan Award for Architecture | AKAA | STIRworld
    Adorning the interiors are freestanding white concrete staircase and cutouts connecting the different levels Image: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Deed Studio

Creating a dialogue between old and new, the New York-based ASA North, founded by Ahmadreza Schricker, introduced new additions to the 100-year-old brewery that houses Tehran's first independent contemporary art museum. In the heart of Tehran, the 1890 sqm of Argo Contemporary Art Museum & Cultural Centre occupies six distinct gallery spaces, a permanent collection, a library, an artist residency, and event spaces. While retaining the old load-bearing walls with exposed brick, the new intervention added structural foundation and support, and a series of sculptural concrete roofs. The project, beyond the basics of preservation, aimed to provide the old building with a new life.

Banyuwangi International Airport, Indonesia

  • Banyuwangi International Airport in Indonesia by Andramatin | Aga Khan Award for Architecture | AKAA | STIRworld
    Banyuwangi International Airport in Indonesia by Andramatin Image: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Mario Wibowo
  • The building offers a contemporary interpretation of vernacular design principles | Aga Khan Award for Architecture | AKAA | STIRworld
    The building offers a contemporary interpretation of vernacular design principles Image: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Mario Wibowo
  • Materials were selected for their local availability, functionality and low-cost maintenance | Aga Khan Award for Architecture | AKAA | STIRworld
    Materials were selected for their local availability, functionality and low-cost maintenance Image: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Mario Wibowo

Contrasting the conventional design of airports, Banyuwangi International Airport adopts a contemporary interpretation of vernacular passive design principles. Designed by Indonesia-based architecture studio Andramatin, the international airport responds to the context of Blimbingsari and blends with the natural landscape with its green roof. Establishing a connection between nature, landscape and architecture, the building reflects the tropical architecture of Indonesia. Serving over 1,100 passengers daily, the context-conscious design of the airport not only responds to the cultural significance of the site but reinvents a new approach to airport architecture.

Community Spaces in Rohingya Refugee Response, Bangladesh

  • Community Spaces in Rohingya Refugee Response at Bangladesh by  Rizvi Hassan, Khwaja Fatmi, and Saad Ben Mostafa | Aga Khan Award for Architecture | AKAA | STIRworld
    Community Spaces in Rohingya Refugee Response at Bangladesh by Rizvi Hassan, Khwaja Fatmi, and Saad Ben Mostafa Image: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Asif Salman
  • The open courtyard of the Safe Space for Women and Girls in Camp 25 connects to all surrounding rooms | Aga Khan Award for Architecture | AKAA | STIRworld
    The open courtyard of the Safe Space for Women and Girls in Camp 25 connects to all surrounding rooms Image: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Asif Salman
  • One community support centre uses colourful mattresses as roof insulation and another mixes natural materials with industrial ones | Aga Khan Award for Architecture | AKAA | STIRworld
    One community support centre uses colourful mattresses as roof insulation and another mixes natural materials with industrial ones Image: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Asif Salman

An example of how architecture can help communities regain identities and find a safe haven in a new land is the community spaces in Rohingya Refugee Response, Bangladesh. Along with providing housing for the Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar's genocidal violence, the six sustainable structures designed by Rizvi Hassan, Khwaja Fatmi, and Saad Ben Mostafa create a safe space for the community to regain their confidence and keepsake the cultural heritage. In a community participatory approach, the complex roof truss was built by Rohingya bamboo workers and handmade products were made by the women of the community from bamboo and thatch. Adding to it were multiple discussions conducted with the Rohingya refugees to understand the architecture of Rohingya and to integrate them in the sustainable design of the structures. The project brought together the Rohingya community to work with the architects and construct a space that feels familiar to them and closer to home.

Kamanar Secondary School, Senegal

  • Kamanar Secondary School in Senegal by Dawoffice | Aga Khan Award for Architecture | AKAA | STIRworld
    Kamanar Secondary School in Senegal by Dawoffice Image: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Amir Anoushfar
  • The walls were built using clay soil from the site, creating a strong connexion between the buildings and the site | Aga Khan Award for Architecture | AKAA | STIRworld
    The walls were built using clay soil from the site, creating a strong connexion between the buildings and the site Image: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Amir Anoushfar
  • The vaulted shape of the classroom modules gives a strong character to the school in spite of the fragmented nature of the design | Aga Khan Award for Architecture | AKAA | STIRworld
    The vaulted shape of the classroom modules gives a strong character to the school in spite of the fragmented nature of the design Image: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Amir Anoushfar

Exploring the local materials and vernacular construction methods, David Garcia and Aina Tugores of Dawoffice solved the overcrowding at Thionck Essyl’s only secondary school. Under the slogan 'Let’s Build a School' in 2016, with the help of Foundawtion, CEM Kamanar project began its journey. While creating a structure that responds to the site, catenary vaults made of clay, the region's most abundant material, made up to be the architectural identity of the educational building. In a modular form, the classrooms are set around a series of squares, each accommodating a pre-existing tree. Keeping climatic comfort and low cost as the leading factors, the construction was completed in 2021 with the possibility of future expansion.

Renovation of Niemeyer Guest House, Lebanon

  • Renovation of Niemeyer Guest House in Lebanon by East Architecture Studio | Aga Khan Award for Architecture | AKAA | STIRworld
    Renovation of Niemeyer Guest House in Lebanon by East Architecture Studio Image: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Cemal Emden
  • The introverted building is centred around an open central atrium planted with local reed species | Aga Khan Award for Architecture | AKAA | STIRworld
    The introverted building is centred around an open central atrium planted with local reed species Image: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture / Cemal Emden

Tripoli, a city in Lebanon, is home to the Rachid Karami International Fair, designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1962, which unfortunately remained incomplete and was abandoned due to the Lebanese Civil War in 1975. While reinventing an identity for the city and the architecture of Niemeyer, one of the 15 pavilions of the fair, the Guest House underwent a transformation in 2018. Reinventing the parts of Neimeyer and introducing vernacular architecture of the city to the built spaces, Nicolas Fayad and Charles Kettaneh of East Architecture Studio indulged in the play of light and shadow, and material exploration for the renovation. Though the space would now be used as a design platform and prototyping facility, the interventions in the building are reversible, hoping that it could someday regain its original identity and use.

Urban River Spaces, Bangladesh

Urban River Spaces in Bangladesh by Co.Creation Architects | Aga Khan Award for Architecture | AKAA | STIRworld
Urban River Spaces in Bangladesh by Co.Creation Architects Image: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture

Reimagining a new identity for the southwestern town of Jhenaidah, the project was envisioned by local architects Khondaker Hasibul Kabir and Suhailey Farzana of Co.Creation Architects. Under the title of Sobai Mile Jhenaidah Gori translated as 'Let’s all build Jhenaidah', the architect couple aimed to transform the town with a community-driven approach. This initiative began by reviving four kilometres of the shore of the Nabaganga river in Bangladesh. Encircled by the notion of contextual principles, the river line was developed into a public space with access to the river through ghats, pedestrian pathways, gardens, and cultural facilities. Along with providing the residents with the possibility to use the water, the project also takes up environmental efforts to increase biodiversity in the river.

With the 15th cycle, the winners and a multitude of other entries for the award brought forth the potential of the architecture community in addressing and solving many important issues. The projects presented stories of survival, revival, and new hopes from across the globe through an array of interventions varying from social housing and community development to urban-scale interventions and restorations. Most of the projects went beyond architectural styles, designer philosophies and schools of thought to create designs that extend to the notions of humanitarian architecture and its possibilities to connect to communities, culture and the environment.

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