1st Edition

Architectural Excellence in Islamic Societies Distinction through the Aga Khan Award for Architecture

    256 Pages 60 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    256 Pages 60 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book discusses architectural excellence in Islamic societies drawing on textual and visual materials, from the Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT, developed over more than three decades. At the core of the discussion are the efforts, processes, and outcomes of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA).


    The AKAA recognises excellence in architectural and urban interventions within cities and settlements in the Islamic world which are continuously challenged by dramatic changes in economies, societies, political systems, decision-making, and environmental requirements. Architectural Excellence in Islamic Societies responds to the recurring question about the need for architectural awards, arguing that they are critical to validating the achievements of professional architects while making their contributions more widely acknowledged by the public. Through analysis and critique of over sixty awarded and shortlisted projects from over thirty-five countries, this book provides an expansive look at the history of the AKAA through a series of narratives on the enduring values of architecture, architectural and urban conservation, built environment sustainability, and architectural pluralism and multiple modernities.


    Architectural Excellence in Islamic Societies will appeal to professionals and academics, researchers, and upper-level students in architectural history and theory and built environment related fields.

    List of Illustrations



    Chapter 1

    Introduction: Towards Decolonised Narratives of Architectural Excellence

    • Decolonising Geographies of Architectural Knowledge
    • The Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA)
    • Architectural Excellence: Perceived and Measured Quality
    • A Prelude for Narratives of Architectural Excellence in Islamic Societies
    • The Content and Structure of this Volume
    • Notes
    • References

    Chapter 2

    Reinstating the Enduring Values of Architecture

    • Architectural Elements of Endurance
    • Hassan Fathy (1900–1989)

    Contextual Inspirations, Beliefs and Ideologies, Fathy’s Oeuvre, Fathy’s Influence

    • Rifat Chadirji (1926)

    Contextual Influences, Beliefs and Ideologies, Chadirji ‘s Oeuvre, Chadirji‘s Influence

    • Geoffrey Bawa (1919–2003)

    Contextual Inspirations, Beliefs and Ideologies, Bawa’s Legacy, Bawa’s Influence

    • Oleg Grabar (1929–2011)

    Contextual Influences, Beliefs and Ideologies, Key Contributions, Grabar’s Impact

    • The Shared Denominator and the Enduring Values of Architecture
    • Notes
    • References

     Chapter 3

    From Restoration to Sustainable Urban Conservation

    • On Restoration and Reuse of Historic Structures
    • Glimpses from Selected Projects

    Conservation of Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia (awarded 19771980); Darb Qirmiz Quarter, Egypt (awarded 19811983); Mostar Old Town Conservation, Bosnia and Herzegovina (awarded 19841986); Restoration of the Great Omari Mosque, Lebanon (awarded 19871989); Rehabilitation of Asilah, Morocco (awarded 19871989); Restoration of Bukhara Old City, Uzbekistan (awarded 19931995); New Life for Old Structures, Iran (awarded 19992001); Al-Abbas Mosque Restoration, Yemen (awarded 20022004); Rehabilitation of the Walled City of Nicosia, Cyprus (awarded 20052007); Rehabilitation of Shibam, Yemen (awarded 20052007); Revitalisation of Recent Heritage of Tunisia (awarded 20082010); Restoration of Rubber Smokehouse, Malaysia (shortlisted 20082010); Restoration of Souk Waqif, Qatar (shortlisted 20082010); Rehabilitation of Tabriz Bazar, Iran (awarded 20112013); Revitalisation of Birzeit Historic Centre, Palestine (awarded 20112013); Manouchehri House, Iran (shortlisted 20142016)

    • Introspective Analysis
    • Values of Excellence and the Narrative of Architectural and Urban Conservation
    • Notes
    • References

    Chapter 4

    Sustainable Architecture and Ecological Infrastructure

    • The Spectrum of Sustainable and Ecological Architecture

    • Glimpses from Selected Projects

    Menara Mesiniaga/ IBM Headquarter, Malaysia (awarded 19931995); Datai Hotel, Malaysia (awarded 19992001); Moulmein Rise Residential Tower, Singapore (awarded 20052007); Wadi Hanifa Wetlands, Saudi Arabia (awarded 20082010); The Green School, Indonesia (shortlisted 20082010); Palmyra House, India (shortlisted 20082010); Ceuta Public Library, Spain (awarded 20112013); Post-Tsunami Housing, Sri Lanka (shortlisted 20112013); Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre, South Africa (shortlisted 20112013); Apartment No.1, Iran (shortlisted 20112013); Kantana Film and Animation Institute, Thailand (shortlisted 20112013); House of 40 Knots, Iran (shortlisted 20142016); Makoko Floating School, Nigeria (shortlisted 20142016)

    • Reflection and Discussion
    • Values of Excellence and the Narrative of Built Environment Sustainability

    • References
    • Note

    Chapter 5

    Plurality of Architectural Approaches and Multiple Modernities

    • Modernity, Identity, and Plurality

    • Glimpses from Selected Projects

    The Intercontinental Hotel & Conference Centre, Saudi Arabia (awarded 19781980); The National Assembly Building, Bangladesh (awarded 19871989); Al-Kindi Plaza, Saudi Arabia (awarded 19871998); The Nubia Museum, Egypt (awarded 19992001); Olbia Social Centre, Turkey (awarded 19992001); B2 House in Büykhüsun Village, Turkey (awarded 20022004); The Royal Embassy of The Netherlands, Ethiopia (awarded 20052007); Ipekyol Textile Factory in Edirne, Turkey (awarded 20082010); Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy, Lebanon (awarded 20142016); The Royal Academy for Nature Conservation, Jordan (shortlisted 20142016)

    • Reflection and Discussion
    • Values of Excellence and the Narrative of Architectural Pluralism
    • Notes
    • References

    Chapter 6

    Decolonisation Aspirations of Architecture in Islamic Societies

    • Generated Discourse: Seminars and Monographs
    • Pluralistic Aspects of Architectural Excellence
    • Themes and Reflections
    • Expanding the Scope of Architecture
    • Outlook: A Sustained Quest for Decolonised Architectural Excellence
    • Notes
    • References



    Ashraf M. Salama, PhD, is Professor of Architecture and Head of the Department of Architecture at the University of Strathclyde Glasgow, UK (2014–2020). Professor Salama has published over 170 papers and book chapters in the international refereed press and has authored and co-edited ten books. He is the UIA 2017 recipient of the Jean Tschumi Prize for Excellence in Architectural Education and Criticism. He is the Founding and Chief Editor of Archnet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research and serves on the boards of numerous international journals.

    Marwa M. El-Ashmouni, PhD, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Architectural Engineering, Beni-Suef University, Egypt. Dr. El-Ashmouni earned her degrees from the University of Adelaide, Australia, and Ball State University, USA. El-Ashmouni was awarded the University of Adelaide Medal of Research Excellence (2013). Her publications include a book chapter in Christiane Gruber, ed. Islamic Architecture on the Move (2016), entitled "Mobility and Ambivalences: Negotiating Architecture Identities during Khedive Ismail's Reign (1863–79)."

    Architectural Excellence in Islamic Societies is a serious contribution to the contemporary architectural discourse. Salama and El-Ashmouni construct important narratives that characterise architecture and urbanism and depict features of excellence through a selection of projects recognized by the Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA). Brining our attention to the conditions within which the built environment is produced and debated in this particular context of the Islamic World, this book is a critical reading for academics and professionals both in the global north and global south.

    Professor Attilio Petruccioli, Doctoral School - DrACO Architettura e Costruzione, University of Rome, La Sapienza, Italy


    This book provides an outstanding narrative of contemporary architecture in the Islamic world, studying projects and architects selected for the Aga Khan Award over the last four decades. The authors spotlight hidden gems of contemporary architecture in this region, as well as the grassroot efforts to create good design for local communities.  This volume brings us hope for a better future as it highlights collective work across the Islamic world to utilize architecture, from macro to micro scale, as a tool to mobilize communities and to elevate people's lives and experiences. It richly illustrates the extraordinary role that the Aga Khan Award has played in promoting human-centric environments.  

    Professor Mohammad Gharipour, Morgan State University, USA; and Founding Editor of the International Journal of Islamic Architecture