Hanif Kara looks back on four decades of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture — By Elisha Nathoo on The Ismaili org

As the winners of the 13th cycle of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture were announced, TheIsmaili.org’s Elisha Nathoo sat down with Professor Hanif Kara, a member of the Steering Committee to talk about what the Award has achieved in the nearly four decades since it was established.

Hanif Kara is a member of the Steering Committee for the 2014-16 cycle of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. AKDN

Hanif Kara is a member of the Steering Committee for the 2014-16 cycle of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. AKDN

Elisha Nathoo (TheIsmaili): Forty years ago, why in your view did Mawlana Hazar Imam establish the Aga Khan Award for Architecture?

(…)

TheIsmaili: What has the Award achieved in that time?

HK: The AKAA is considered to be one of — if not the most — important awards in the field of architecture due to its ethos towards the built environment, multi-disciplinary approach and level of rigour. The Award thinks long term, so by looking at it through its achievements over the last 40 years we can get a much better measure… undeniably it has played a big role in changing not only architecture, but societies and influenced our progress as a community.

If we examine the smaller winners from this cycle like the Bait Ur Rouf Mosque and the Friendship Centre (both in Bangladesh) you will see that the quality of construction through a deliberate simplicity is incredible — which is related to the quality of life of those who use these buildings, but also those who designed and made them, and the nation as a whole.

We all know that wellness of the mind and body is connected to space. I think Mawlana Hazar Imam, almost as far as 40 years ago, wanted to set standards of quality through examples that would inspire designers, builders and clients alike in the Muslim world. Sharing good projects for the Award allowed us to build strong foundations and benchmarks to build upon every cycle.

The Award raises the standard of education in general. Not long after it was established, the graduate programmes addressing the built environment at MIT and Harvard were started. There is also a set dissemination plan to academic institutions around the world through online literature, publications, talks, and seminars.

As a result of the rigorous selection process, an extensive database has been built up. This database at www.archnet.org is openly available for public use. So much data has been collected about how buildings behave, urban contexts, Islam and Muslim societies. The history of certain parts of the world can been tracked and mapped out, like in Aleppo for example.

The Award is not only illuminating architecture as a practice but enhancing the whole basis on which architecture should be developed. It’s not just a discipline, nor is it just a science, nor just an art; it’s a way of life. It’s achieved a lot for academia, for the people of the countries where projects have won the award and for the people who have won it. These practitioners then go on to become great architects and advocates for the way we think and the way in which architecture matters at social and political levels too.

TheIsmaili: How does the Award speak to the values of Islam?

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Read full interview on The Ismaili org

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