India News
--Indo-Asian News Service
NOVEMBER 27, 2004

Aga Khan award for architecture conferred:

New Delhi, Nov 27 : A primary school, a village mosque and an ancient library located in different parts of the world were Saturday conferred the Aga Khan award for architecture in recognition of learning, faith, tradition and modernity.

Among the seven institutions cited were the Bibiliotheca Alexandria in Egypt, an indigenously-designed primary school in a Burkina Faso village, the (restored) Al-Abbas mosque in Yemen and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

An independent master jury selected them for the 2002-2004 awards cycle.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Aga Khan, ministers, top diplomats, architects and bureaucrats attended the high-profile awards ceremony held at the Humayun's Tomb here.

"This year's award recognizes the projects that cover the entire spectrum of human capability and human need. The striking differences in these award winners reflect the enormous range of need for human habitat that must be met in the world today," the Aga Khan said.

The award is presented every three years to recognize contribution to Islamic culture as expressed through architectural excellence.

The other three projects chosen for the award included sandbag shelter prototypes, an experiment in self-built housing that employs earth-filled sandbags to create temporary shelters for refugees; the Old City of Jerusalem revitalization programme designed to preserve the distinctive historical character of the place; and B2 House, located in a small village on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, that blends the private and the poetical aspects of human habitat.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh commended the winners for "harmonizing functional needs of housing with exalted aesthetic standards."

He also lauded the Aga Khan Foundation for its contribution in diverse fields like cultural preservation and rural housing.

Tracing the history of the award and the ideology underlying it, the Aga Khan recalled how 27 years ago, when the award was launched, he was "becoming increasingly disturbed by the loss of cultural identity and appropriateness and built environments of much of the Muslim world.

"In part, this was because of 'modernity' equated with all that was Western has come to be seen as representing improved quality," he said.

The award was a response to what he termed "the insidious introduction and expansion of inappropriate and irrelevant architecture and planning."

The award was finally conceived to honour buildings that fuse the traditional and the modern in quest of a responsive habitat and to support diverse cultures under threat.

Lavishing praise on India's pluralistic traditions, the head of the Ismailia sect, spoke eloquently about the need for diversity and multiculturalism.

"Imagine what it would be like to live in a world of no diversity, where we were all the same colour, shape and size and ate the same biryani and told the same joke and combed out hair identically.... I would find a world like that quite boring," he quipped.

The award transcends the Muslim world in so far as it represents larger issues like explosive population growth, poverty, environmental degradation and globalisation, officials of the Aga Khan foundation said.