News Saturday, October 10, 1998

Aga Khan awards for architecture announced

By Nation Correspondent

Seven winners of the 1998 Aga Khan Award for Architecture were announced yesterday.

They range from a private house to a palace and from a leper hospital to a state parliament building. They also include two imaginative schemes for regenerating an old town and an area of slums and a building to house an arts council.

The ceremony took place yesterday at The Alhambra and Generalife Gardens in Granada, Spain, in the presence of the King and Queen of Spain and the Aga Khan and the Begum Aga Khan.

The current cycle marks the 20th anniversary of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, whose triennial $500,000 prize fund makes it the world's largest and most prestigious architectural award.

This year's winners, selected from 424 projects, represent a broad range of projects from India to Malaysia.

In their review of the projects, the 1998 master jury paid particular attention to the continuity of the award programme and refrained from selecting projects that represented trends, messages or statements made in the past. They believe that each of the seven winning projects speaks clearly for itself and conveys a universal message with eloquence and poignancy.

The jury was concerned with recognising those projects that had a wider global context and meaning as well as with identifying those that had regional relevance.

Jury debate was informed by the recognition that "major social economic and political changes are taking place in the world today and that the countries of the Islamic world are being profoundly affected by these changes. They are developing new lifestyles, cultural values, symbols and aspirations.

"Except for social projects, an architecture that respects these new realities has yet to be recognised. The award, as a result of its history, is in an ideal position to initiate this discourse," noted the jury.

The winning projects are: Lepers Hospital, Chopda Taluka, India Salinger Residence, Selangor, Malaysia Rehabilitation of Hebron Old Town Slum Networking of Indore City, India Tuwaiq Palace, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Alhamra Arts Council, Lahore, Pakistan Vidhan Bhavan, Bhopal, India.

Two of the projects were seen to have qualities that could be of relevance to a larger worldwide context. The Rehabilitation of Hebron Old Town and the Slum Networking of Indore City were considered exceptional in ways that are a departure from the conventional approach to upgrading. Both shared the idea of reclaiming community space from growing social and physical environmental degradation.

Two others were seen to respond in a most unusual way to specific social and environmental conditions. The Salinger Residence, an example of excellent architecture, uses local materials and skills to create a spatial vocabulary which is contemporary and yet not alienated from its particular cultural context.

The Lepers Hospital is sensitively designed to respond to the needs of the outcasts of society, providing them with shelter and hope while using minimal resources. Its architectural form is unpretentious to the extreme. Its proportions and concepts are, however, of the highest order.

Three projects - the Tuwaiq Palace (a recreation centre for the Diplomatic Quarter in Riyadh), the Alhamra Arts Council (a cultural complex in Lahore) and Vidhan Bhavan (the state assembly of Madhya Pradesh) - each perform public functions and the relatively large-scale of their volumes inevitably add to their importance as social catalysts within their societies. Their form and context within the Islamic world was regarded by the jury as very significant in the continuous process of evolving a contemporary architectural vocabulary.

Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), the purpose of which is the improvement of built environments in societies where Muslims have a significant presence, was founded in 1988 and registered in Geneva as a private non-denominational, philanthropic foundation.

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