Three Muslim women received the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture earlier this month. The award is given every three years to recognize outstanding architectural projects that are designed to enhance the life of the Muslim communities around the world. The three women were announced winners among other 348 finalists from 69 different countries on Oct. 3 in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
The Bait Ur Rouf Mosque
Designed by the Bangladeshi architect Marina Tabassum in 2005, the Bait Ur Rouf Mosque was completed in 2012 and is one of the winning designs. Tabassum designed the mosque for a client, the late Sufia Khatun, who donated part of her own land for the mosque to be built, according to a recent AKDN press release. The innovative design consists of “a cylindrical volume [that] was inserted into a square, facilitating a rotation of the prayer hall, and forming light courts on four sides.” To keep the prayer hall ventilated, the outer design of the mosque consists mainly of absorbent brick walls.
The Tabiat Pedestrian Bridge
The other winning project is the Tabiat Pedestrian Bridge designed by the Iranian architect Leila Arghian. The imaginative design not only connected two parks separated by a highway in northern Tehran, but allowed pedestrians to enjoy the view to the Alborz Mountains. Besides serving its main purpose of providing a passageway for the people to walk between the two parks, the bridge also provides green spaces in which “people can congregate, eat and rest rather than just pass through,” and simply stop and enjoy the view.
The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs Office
The last winning design by a Muslim female architect is The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs Office by the late Arab, Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, who is also known as the ‘Queen of the Curves’ due to her fluid, organic designs, that involve many curves. This building was designed after the American University of Beirut held an invited competition for the design of a structure “that was in harmony with the rest of the university, especially mindful of the surrounding greenery, and to preserve, as far as possible, existing sightlines to the Mediterranean.” Hadid’s design created a ‘floating’ room and research space above the entrance. AKDN described the building as “a new building, radical in composition but respectful of its traditional context, ‘floats’ above an exterior courtyard.”
This is the first time that females in general, and Muslim females in particular, are recognized for the Aga Khan Award in a male-dominant field. These three winning buildings were recognized for their different designs and purposes. “We have had women architects as part of teams of architects or restorers, but never before have there been so many women as [lead] architects,” said Sam Pickens, the Aga Khan Foundation spokesperson.
This article is written by Zahra Debbek.