AKDN - Press Release

Recipients of the 2004 Aga Khan Award for Architecture Announced by India’s Prime Minister and His Highness the Aga Khan

Press Release For Immediate Release

At the historical Humayun’s Tomb, His Highness the Aga Khan, hereditary spiritual leader (Imam) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and founder of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) together with India’s Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh today announced the seven recipients of the 2004 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. The announcement marked the completion of the ninth cycle of the programme. The Award, which has a triennial prize fund of US$ 500,000, is the world’s largest architectural award. The seven projects selected by the 2004 Award Master Jury are:

• Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt
• Primary School, Gando, Burkina Faso
• Sandbag Shelter Prototypes, various locaions
• Restoration of Al-Abbas Mosque, Asnaf, Yemen
• Old City of Jerusalem Revitalisation Programme, Jerusalem
• B2 House, Ayvacik, Turkey
• Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

During his speech at the Award Ceremony, the Aga Khan remarked on the appropriateness of India as the venue for the event, given its rich cultural heritage and pluralistic traditions. “Here, many cultures have maintained their distinct identities while combining and co-operating to create something even greater, the dynamic and vibrant India of the modern world. This is also a country where the struggle for social justice and improved quality of life has made tremendous strides over many decades through the continuous efforts of governments and civil society” he said.

The Aga Khan emphasised that the Award for Architecture was a recognition of the work of architects and their clients, builders –large and small, governments, planners, international organisations, granting agencies, village organisations and individuals, all of whom were collectively responsible for the creation of a humane, and socially-supportive built environment that was important to the quality of life of people.

The Aga Khan noted that the Award had evolved through various phases; from engaging constituencies to develop consensus about the nature of the problem, to developing the means to support change and finally to exposing solutions to the many who were involved in the process of developing human habitat.

Praising the Aga Khan for the work done in restoring historical monuments, the Prime Minister said this had been an instructive example in finding new and creative solutions to the age-old problem of allocating scarce resources in a developing country to the preservation of heritage. “I hope that more public-private partnerships can be evolved to maintain and restore the monuments of our ancestors, which often lie in neglected condition in our cities and towns,” he said.

Drawing attention to the milieu in which the heritage of buildings existed, Dr. Manmohan Singh urged every Indian to take pride in this legacy, and to “contribute to ensuring that there remains a legacy for which our descendants can be proud.” Further reflecting on the development initiatives undertaken in India by the Aga Khan, Dr. Singh said, “We see these as symbols of His Highness’s vision for the world; a vision that is imbued with the true spirit of compassion, humanism and social conscience. These are truly the hallmark of Islam.”

During the current cycle of the Award, 378 projects were presented for consideration, and 23 were reviewed on site by outside experts. An independent Master Jury selected seven Award recipients that are notable for having attained the highest international standards of architectural excellence, while reflecting the values of the primarily Muslim societies the projects are intended to serve.

Recipients of the ninth cycle
of the Award with Prime Minister
Dr. Manmohan Singh and
His Highness the Aga Khan

The Jury identified four areas of social meaning to illustrate the winning projects: how the complexity of history and of historical memory can be expressed in architecture; how private initiatives are integrated into the emerging public sphere; how to express individuality within complex social settings and in the context of the plurality of Muslim traditions; and how power and authority in the global domains of technology, culture and economics might be addressed through architecture. Throughout their two week-long meetings at the Award headquarters in Geneva, the Jury gave foremost importance to projects that raise the standards of excellence.

The process of engaging key constituencies in issue identification and problem solving was applicable to finding solutions to the range of contemporary, cultural and social challenges the world faced in India and elsewhere noted the Aga Khan. “The fundamental question we sought to answer in establishing these Awards, is one which I think is applicable to any initiative which is aimed at nurturing and supporting cultures at risk: How do we protect the past and inspire the future?” he asked. “How do we reshape and reposition knowledge and taste and appreciation in the public psyche, and among those who play a role in developing human habitat?” he continued.

The Aga Khan went on to underline that in order to have a realistic chance of bringing about fundamental and lasting change, one had to reach out and raise awareness, not just among architects, but among clients, corporations, governments, planners, educators and financiers.

Acknowledging that the Award had come a long way since its inception in 1977, the Aga Khan nonetheless expressed concern over numerous aspects that required further attention. Quality housing remains the most essential need for societies everywhere, both in rural and urban environments; industrial facilities and workplaces are not at a level of excellence that makes them exceptional; rapidly-expanding urban centres throughout the world lack public parks and open urban spaces; problems of transport, congestion and pollution have too few solutions emerging; and the growth of slums, the consequence of the relentless forces of urbanisation, has not been stopped or even slowed down, he elaborated.

“These issues are not exclusive to the Muslim world” ended the Aga Khan. “The non-Muslim world struggles equally with explosive population growth, poverty, environmental degradation, exodus from rural areas, globalisation and the impact on cultural identity of new forms of media” he added.

Earlier in his visit to India, the Aga Khan met with President Shri A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, and various Government Ministers. The Aga Khan continues his visit to Agra for the unveiling of the special issue of commemorative postage stamps. He will also host a winners’ seminar together with the Master Jury and Steering Committee to review lessons learnt.