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Africa's Builiding Projects Emerge Among The World's Best Five

posted 12 Sept 2013, 08:45 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 12 Sept 2013, 08:46 ]

Two African projects were among five in the world that scooped this year's Aga Khan Award of Architecture, at a ceremony held in Portugal. Established in 1977 by the Aga Khan, the award aims at identifying and encouraging building concepts that addresses the needs and aspirations of communities.

LISBON, PORTUGAL (SEPTEMBER 06, 2013) (REUTERS) - The 2013 edition of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture recently celebrated brilliant architectural works across the globe at a gala held in Portugal's Sao Jorge castle which overlooks Lisbon.

The prestigious architectural award, held once every three years features entries from compelling structures across the globe and offers winners a 1 million US dollar prize, that's shared among them.

Five winning projects that reflect excellence and have a positive impact on people's lives were drawn from a short list of 20 in which Sudan and Morocco managed to emerge among the top 5.

Awards were presented by His Highness the Aga Khan and Portugal's President, Anibal Cavacao Silva.

Out of the 20 shortlisted structures, seven emerged from Africa.

An architectural project that did stand out was the Hassan II Bridge which links the Moroccan capital,Rabat with its satellite Sale city to create one urban hub.

The massive bridge makes extraordinary demands of the graceful arched supporting structural forms. The design also provides an umbrella over the plain of the Bouregreg River and as a result offers public space for a variety of uses like train stops.

Lemghari Essakl, the general director at Agency for Bouregreg Valley Development in Morocco, was on hand to pick the award.

"The aim and objective of our public agency is the preservation of the environment and the ecological area, but also the preservation of the history of these two imperial cities. Under the guise of developing the urban hub as a pretext we have achieved this objective which is highly symbolic," he said.

The scheme's founder, the Aga Khan, who is the spiritual leader of the Ismailia Muslims, said that there was need to think about the future and anticipate questions that architecture may need to address in coming years.

"The issues that came up 30 years ago are not the issues of today and we therefore have to try to be aware of the issues that are ahead of us so as to educate people, train people have them think about those issues," he said.

At a seminar held after the Awards Ceremony experts addressed visitors on various aspects of architecture.

The panel of judges known as the master jury included David Adjaye an architect, who also spoke at the seminar.

"In each case it was really about the power of the architecture in terms of its construction, its detail, its inventiveness but also its ability to have social change, to have social impact and to be seen as public architecture," said Adjaye.

In Khartoum, the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery was recognised partly because of its intriguing aspects of transforming containers once used to transport medical equipment into highly desirable space used to provide accommodation for staff.

The hospital's buildings are sited around a courtyard.

"This award gave us a great push actually and hope that our dream about building centres of excellence in Africa can be a reality," said Ahmed Bilal OsmanSudan's Minister for Culture and Information.

The 20 shortlisted sites also included the heritage of oasis towns in the anti-Atlas mountains ofMorocco which have been preserved by the local community.

The Mapungu Interpretation Centre in Limpopo, South Africa was also listed for its design of vaults, inspired by a motif etched on stones discovered at the Mapungu Hills, a World Heritage site.

Another African project that was celebrated was the Umubano Primary School in KigaliRwanda which hosts orphaned children and will also be used for adult evening classes.

One of its main architectural merits lies in the clever space created that provides freedom for children to run and play games like hide and seek.

The Aga Khan Architectural award was launched in 1977 and promotes culture among other features in buildings.