The Aga Khan Trust for Culture in 1990, in collaboration with the Union of Soviet Architects and the Union of Uzbek Architects, launched an international architectural competition for ideas on the Ulugh Beg Cultural Centre in Samarkand, USSR. The project is part of a larger programme aimed at the revitalization of the historic Core of Samarkand - the location of some of the finest examples of monumental Islamic architecture in Central Asia.
The competition is focused on the theme of a cultural centre to be erected in memory of Ulugh Beg, grandson of Timur, who was a great scholar, mathematician and astronomer, as well as a connoisseur of architecture. The design brief, broad in scope and covering a site area in excess of twenty-five hectares, offers the rare opportunity of creating a vision of architecture, urban design, and landscaping at one of the most prominent and prestigious urban expanses in the world, and which comprises some of history's most impressive monuments at the Registan Square. The site, too, is a locus of contemporary life and development, and the competition programme has purposely been kept generous in order to permit solutions whose variety and richness might rival that of the site itself.
The nine-member jury, consisting of Sabir Adilov (USSR), Charles Correa (India), Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil (Egypt), Yuri Gnedovsky (USSR), Zaha Hadid (UK), Arata Isozaki (Japan), Yuri Platonov (USSR), Nematjan Sadikov (USSR) and Ismail Serageldin (USA), has been appointed to further characterise the tenets of cultural exchange so central to the competition programme, and to guarantee that voices from the East and the West, from developing and developed countries, all might be heard with equity and a generous sense of discovery. Since its announcement in May 1990, tremendous interest has been manifested in the competition and to date, professionals from over forty countries have registered to participate. The deadline for registration had to be extended in order to meet the burgeoning demand at the competition secretariats in Geneva and in Moscow.
The prize-fund has been set at US$ 150,000 and will be distributed equally by the jury amongst five winning projects. Additionally, winners will be invited to Samarkand for a prize giving ceremony and provided with a ten-day tour of the Soviet Union.
This competition provides the architectural professions worldwide with the opportunity - and the challenge - to participate in this debate by expressions of architecture and urban design which will help mould the Samarkand of tomorrow.
Source: African Ismaili (March 1991)
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