Aga Khan Award: The million dollar award recognizes the best new community architecture in the world


Written by the author Oscar Holland, CNN

A quiet airport, a contemporary art museum and community centers for refugees are among the winners of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, a major prize that honors new buildings in “communities with a strong Muslim presence”.

The designers behind the six winning projects unveiled on Thursday will share the $1 million prize, one of the industry’s largest.

The award, given every three years, often recognizes social architecture projects. In its citation, the jury said the award is based on “the difference architecture makes in the lives of people and local communities”.

Schools and learning centers stood out among the 20 shortlists, with one — Senegal’s Kamanar Secondary School — among the winners. Elsewhere, a renovation project in Tripoli, Lebanon was approved by renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer for reviving an abandoned building.

Larger scale projects were also awarded. In East Java, Indonesia, the firm of renowned local architect Andra Matin won for a grass-roofed airport that blends in with the surrounding rice paddies. Meanwhile, in the Iranian capital of Tehran, the Argo Museum of Contemporary Art and Cultural Center was praised for having given new life to an old brewery that had been unused before the 1979 Iranian revolution.

The award organizers recognized a series of temporary community spaces in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, for providing a “dignified, sensitive and intelligent response to the emergency needs associated with the large influx of Rohingya refugees”. Credit: Asia Salman/Aga Khan Trust for Culture

Two of this year’s six winners are from Bangladesh. One, a landscape project in the western city of Jhenaidah, renovated a riverside landfill with brick-lined walkways and public ghats. The others consist of six temporary community spaces for refugees in Cox’s Bazar, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled following a brutal military offensive against Myanmar. Both projects have been applauded by the judges for meeting the needs of women.
The award was established in 1977 by the Aga Khan IV, a senior imam of the Shia Ismaili branch of Islam whose inherited title lays claim to being a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. The 85-year-old monarch continues to chair the program’s steering committee, which previously included notable architects Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid.

This year’s shortlist and winners were chosen from over 460 projects from around the world.

Previous winners have included mosques, community buildings and universities, as well as landmark projects such as the Bangladesh parliament building, the Qatar National Museum and the Petronas Towers in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.

Scroll through the gallery above to see the six winners of the 2022 Aga Khan Award.