On awards (3) Aga Khan Awards for Architecture

Appartments in Tehran, candidate project to the 2013 cycle

I once heard a sentence from an Architecture historian on how difficult it was to define architectural modernity from an Islamic or Arabic viewpoint (I know both terms represent different things, but for what he meant any of them could be used). He said it was still open to debate how an Islamic or Arabic rail station should look like.

In 1977 the Aga Khan, supreme religious leader of the Ismailites, set up an architectural award for projects that could deliver positive results for Islamic societies. The Aga Khan as a character is far from current western stereotypes: he is a monarch without land, spiritual leader for a part of the Islam, living in the west. The aesthetics awarded in this case are quite far from tradition; however, it would be difficult to say what tradition is, as the Islamic world encompasses such a wide array of territories and peoples, with the subsequent array of architectural traditions.

The award is held every three years, and the last edition was that of 2013. The list of awarded architects is not restricted to Muslims, taking into account the names, sometimes well known in the west. There is an Islamic cemetery in the Austrian Alps, a road and public transit project in Rabat- Salé (Morocco), a rehabilitation in Tabriz (Iran), interventions on an historical  city core in Palestine and a heart surgery clinic in Khartoum (Sudan).

I have followed for some years (from a distance…) the results of the awards, and noticed that they encompass a wide geographical variety, addressing contemporary architectural models, without a pre-defined aesthetical framework. I could even say that they seem quality architectures, although I do not know the places in which they sit; and Salé (Morocco) is not Salem (Massachussetts).

In fact I still wonder why an Arab or Islamic rail station should be that different from an European or Christian one… as the later are quite diverse. The idea of a culture that is not a general frame of reference, but rather a rigid set of rules, has always seemed difficult to me.

Proyecto Madrid Centro awarded at VIII BIAU

The Proyecto Madrid Centro (Strategic Project for the Urban Core of Madrid) has been awarded at the eight Ibero-american Architecture and Urbanism Biennale (VIII BIAU) in the category for applied research.

The BIAU is led by the Infrastructure and Urban Development Ministry of the Spanish Government through its General Direction for Architecture, Housing and Land, awarding every two years innovative projects in the 22 countries composing the Ibero-american space, including Spanish and Portuguese speaking Americas and Spain and Portugal.

The proposal establishes a detailed diagnosis of the present condition of the urban core of Madrid to define a strategic vision aimed to guide its evolution towards a more sustainable urban development model. Substituting an expansive growth model with one set to recycle existing urban tissues, taking into account the complexity and potential of the existing city, is the declared goal. In an urban space of 50 sq km with a population of 1,07 million, included into the M30 orbital freeway, that in 2008 has about the same population as in 1940, the central issue is the meaning of urban centrality.

The consultant team has been directed by José María Ezquiaga, Juan Herreros and Salvador Pérez Arroyo, with a highly qualified group of specialists addressing different issues. I have been honored to work in the team coordination and defining proposals.

Link to the project in the municipal site of Madrid

Additional details about the project in next posts.