On Saturday, members of the steering committee of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, including Hanif Kara, Azim Nanji and Brigitte Shim, gathered at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto to celebrate the shortlist of the 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. The 19 projects were presented in short films, grouped together by theme.
Indeed, many of these stellar buildings have much in common, whether they balance preservation and modernization, local fabrication and innovative techniques, and social and environmental aspects. As Brigitte Shim, also a founding partner of Toronto firm Shim-Sutcliffe, noted, the projects also show how architecture can be a collaboration among non-profits, activist architects and communities.
Among the projects shortlisted for the US$1-million prize, which will be announced in June, is the Makoko floating school by Kunlé Adeyemi, who based his design on the stilt-supported homes on water of the Makoko community in Lagos. Local fabrication techniques also inspired Toshiko Mori’s Thread artists centre in Sinthian, Senegal, although its undulating roof and offset brick lattice-work facade balance the thatched roof and tiled vernacular with a modern rigour. In Kosovo and in Beijing, two projects meant to accommodate children also got nods: the Bunateka libraries and the Micro Yuan’er Children’s Library & Art Centre.
Larger projects, like Tehran’s Tabiat Pedestrian Bridge and the Casa-Port New Railway Station for Casablanca turn major infrastructure works – in essence, thoroughfares – into places where people can congregate and hang out. The shortlist also includes big names: Zaha Hadid Architects’ Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, in Beirut, with its cantilevered form hovering over a public square; and Atelier Jean Nouvel’s Doha Tower in Qatar, with its high-tech mashrabbiya envelope filtering in light and shadow. BIG also made the shortlist with its Superkilen park in Copenhagen, inspired by the various ethnic groups that inhabit the neighbourhood.
At the event on Saturday, George Baird, who along with Shim and fellow panelist Aziza Chaouni is also a professor at the University of Toronto’s Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, noted that the Aga Khan Award has always emphasized the social and environmental aspects of architecture – long before many other awards programs. And that influence is now clear – it can be seen in the choice of Alejandro Aravena as this year’s Pritzker Prize recipient.