What Is Aga Khan Award For Architecture

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture’s mission is to recognize and reward excellence in architecture that has served the architecture community, as well as to recognize the efforts of those who have successfully preserved, enhanced and developed the built environment. The Award promotes a holistic approach to architecture that takes into consideration social and environmental aspects, as well as aesthetic considerations. It encourages innovation and excellence in design.

The award was established in 1977 by the Aga Khan,49th hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, in response to the needs of communities that today served by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). It is one of the most prestigious international awards for architectural projects in the world. The award is given biennially and its purpose is to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully address the needs of Muslim societies.

This award was established to recognize, explore and celebrate the many forms that architecture and the built environment has taken in Muslim societies. The award aims to bring together architects, authorities, and committed citizens from all over the world who are tackling the challenge of improving their built environments. By identifying examples of architecture that demonstrate excellence, the award encourages replication of such initiatives and inspires future generations of architects to strive for excellence.

The award also seeks to identify and highlight examples of economic, social and environmental sustainability that are often found in the architecture, urban design and building practices of Muslim societies. It focuses on civil society and its commitments to culture, peace and justice, and on the making of positive, sustainable structures, urban plans, and design processes. The award seeks to expand the boundaries of modern architecture so that it may be both aesthetic and socially functional.

The award is only given to projects that demonstrate a commitment to the principles of community participation and social responsibility, as well as a high degree of innovation. The award also looks for ancient and traditional modelling and adaptations as to how societies can constructively respond to the challenge of contemporary life.

The award process requires nomination and documentation of each potential project. An “Award Master Jury” evaluates the applications and selects winners biennially. The award includes an exhibit and a book that highlight the winning projects. An endowment fund is set up to establish and support architectural projects that embody the spirit and intent of the award.

Criteria for Aga Khan Award for Architecture

The criteria for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture include: aesthetic accomplishment, innovation in technology, environmental considerations, response to contemporary needs of society and its users, understanding of local context, impact on social and economic development and surrounding environment, understanding and appreciation of human interaction with its built environment, and spirit of Islamic culture.

The award also looks into the project’s context and contrasts the impact of the architecture on local lifestyles, and functionality embedded in the design. The Award’s jury reviews projects in terms of the excellence of the design, technical competence, materials used, symbolism and its cultural context, participation of local communities, effectiveness of public buildings, social benefits, and sensitivity to local climate.

The Award evaluates the proposed designs using a two-step process. The first step includes research and assessment of the nominated projects, which are further evaluated by a Master Jury Panel. The Master Jury carefully studies the projects on the basis of the criteria and decides which projects will receive the award.

Benefits of Aga Khan Award for Architecture

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture promotes understanding and appreciation of architecture and its effects on communities, while rewarding exceptional design, innovation and social aspects in architecture. Its awards provide a special incentive to communities and environments to continue creating innovative and sustainable architecture designs.

The award provides recognition and acknowledgement to local and international architectural projects that have demonstrated exemplary architectural contributions in improving their respective communities. The award seeks to raise the status of architecture in the general public, and to enhance the value of architecture within governments, urban planning agencies and development organisations.

Furthermore, the award serves as an inspiration and motivation to young people to pursue architecture as a career, and to strive for excellence in their architecture endeavours. By recognising and highlighting the vital role of architecture in sustainable development, the Award has and continues to stimulate ambitious projects with a positive impact on society.

History of Aga Khan Award for Architecture

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture began in 1977, when His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, inaugurated the award in Geneva, Switzerland. Since then, the award has been awarded every two years to projects and initiatives that exemplify excellence in architecture and design. The aim of the award is to recognize and reward projects and initiatives that demonstrate excellence in architecture and design, and to stimulate such initiatives in areas of significant need.

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture was initially established to recognize architectural contributions of communities throughout the Muslim world. While the award has broadened its scope to include any and all innovations in design, it continues to promote the importance of architecture in improving the quality of life of vulnerable communities and serving, in the words of the Aga Khan, “as an instrument of social and economic development.”

The Aga Khan Award has recognized more than 200 projects in the past, including many that have gone on to become celebrated examples of architectural excellence. Among the acclaimed award winners are the Islamic Cultural Centre of Rome, the Islamic Centre in Kuwait, the Grand Mosque of Dembock, and the Queen RaniaTeacher Academy.


The Aga Khan Award for Architecture is a biennial event that recognizes and rewards excellence in architecture and design throughout the world. It encourages innovation and sustainability in architecture, and provides an opportunity for local and international architects to share their innovative projects and initiatives. By sharing their work with the public, these architects help to promote a better understanding of architecture and its effects on communities.

Anita Johnson is an award-winning author and editor with over 15 years of experience in the fields of architecture, design, and urbanism. She has contributed articles and reviews to a variety of print and online publications on topics related to culture, art, architecture, and design from the late 19th century to the present day. Johnson's deep interest in these topics has informed both her writing and curatorial practice as she seeks to connect readers to the built environment around them.

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