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Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA)

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

It was the Imam's own involvement in construction in developing countries during the 1960s and 1970s that evoked his concern with the deteriorating architectural heritage and inappropriate building practices in many Muslim societies. To sensitize those who build in the developing world to the unique heritage of Muslim history and architecture, the Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA) was founded in 1977. The goal of the Award is to recognize outstanding architectural achievements in all the different cultures and communities of the Muslim world. It seeks to identify examples of excellence in all areas of building and design, including social housing, community development, restoration, re-use and area conservation, as well as landscaping and concern for the environment. Through its efforts, the Award hopes to encourage design concepts that successfully address the needs and hopes of Muslim communities today.

The Award is granted at the conclusion of a three year cycle of nomination, project documentation, screening and technical review. Screening and the final selection of winners of the $. 500,000 prize are carried out by an independent Master Jury appointed for each cycle. Since 1980, the Award has been attributed to a wide range of contemporary building projects, as diverse as the mud brick mosque in Yaama, Niger and the Institute due Monde Arabe in Paris. Along with individual buildings, Award-winning projects have also included social housing and community building schemes as well as restoration and urban conservation projects. A special Chairman's Award has been conferred twice, in recognition of the lifetime achievements of noted Muslim architects Rifat Chadirji and the late Hassan Fathy. Ceremonies to honour the winning projects and mark the close of each cycle have been held in historic setting selected for their importance to Islamic architecture: Shalimar Garden in Lahore (1980), Topkapi Palace in Istanbul (1983), Badi Palace in Morocco (1986), Saladin's Citadel in Cairo (1989), Registan Square in Samarkand (1992) and the Sultan's Palace (Kraton) in Solo, Indonesia (1995). A seminar to present the award-winning projects is organized following each ceremony. It provides a forum for the discussion of issues in contemporary architecture. The Award's concern with research and scholarship is reflected in its documentation process. Reviewing architectural interventions in the Islamic world according to rigorous documentary and technical criteria, the Award cycles have created an archive of contemporary projects.

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