Panels from the “Design for Diversity: The Aga Khan Award for Architecture” exhibition are now on display in Rotch Library. The panels are selected from a larger exhibition highlighting the 13th Cycle (2014-2016) of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture that was on display at the Boston Society of Architects from May 26 to September 23, 2018.
The exhibition highlighted 19 projects shortlisted from over 300 submissions. Curated by the Aga Khan Council for the United States of America, Design for Diversity presented “architectural works that provide for people’s physical, social, and economic needs, while responding to their cultural expectations. Buildings and structures that address pluralistic communities and bring together diverse populations were also highlighted.”
The staff of the Aga Khan Documentation Center, MIT Libraries, chose projects relevant to the MIT community for the display in Rotch Library. They will be on display for a limited time.
Three of the panels depict innovative designs for libraries. The Micro Yuan’er Childrens Library and Art Centre, an AKAA recipient project, inserts a small library and art space into the busy urban fabric of Beijing; the Ceuta Public Library in the North African, Spanish enclave of Ceuta, is a thoroughly modern library built around the excavation of a Marinid-era archeological site; and the Bunateka Libraries bring books and educational materials to rural communities throughout Kosovo. These structures rethink the role of libraries in the community, and in that sense have a lot in common with the efforts of MIT’s Future of Libraries Task Force launched in 2015.
Also on display are projects that represent new ways to foster community and facilitate knowledge exchange. The Tabiat Pedestrian Bridge, an AKAA recipient, connects two parks divided by a highway in Tehran, while also providing stunning views of the nearby Alborz mountains, and numerous spaces for commerce and community gathering. The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, designed by Zaha Hadid, immediately catches the eye, yet integrates naturally into the existing campus of the American University of Beirut. The Makoko Floating School in Lagos, Nigeria, is a floating school, built with local materials, and designed to endure periodic flooding in the area. The Friendship Centre in Gaibandha, Bangladesh, an AKAA recipient, is inspired by the ruins of a 3rd century monastery and provides offices, a library, meeting rooms, and prayer and tea rooms for a local grassroots organization and the community it serves. The Guelmim School for Technology in southern Morocco is a technologically advanced campus that uses local techniques to minimize the impact of the local climate. Finally the Superkilen Project in Copenhagen, also an AKAA recipient, got the residents of its profoundly multicultural, working class area involved in designing 750 meters of public space so that it reflected the diverse nature of the community around it.
The Aga Khan Award for Architecture was established in 1977 and is a program of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), a philanthropic organization that supports a wide range of activities aimed at the preservation and promotion of the material and spiritual heritage of Muslim societies. Established by His Highness the Aga Khan in 1977, the triennial award is regarded as one of the most important honors in the field. It has been granted to projects—from slum upgrading to high rise “green” buildings—that set standards for architectural excellence while also improving the overall quality of life of their surrounding communities.
The shortlist and winners in the 14th cycle will be announced in 2019.