Al Mureijah Art Spaces transformed dilapidated buildings into contemporary art venues.

Aga Khan Award

THE 20 SHORTLISTED PROJECTS for the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture were announced on April 25th in Geneva. Three of the projects are in the UAE, the most for any country. Two of those are in Sharjah: Al Mureijah Art Spaces, by Sharjah-based architects Mona El Mousfy and Sharmeen Azam Inayat, and Wasit Wetland Centre, by X-Architects of Dubai. The third, Concrete at Alserkal Avenue, by OMA, is in Dubai.

With Al Mureijah Art Spaces, El Mousfy and Inayat created contemporary art exhibition spaces that dialogue with the surrounding historical city center. The project, for Sharjah Art Foundation, provides both climate-controlled indoor galleries as well as outdoor spaces in courtyards and rooftops for art suited to exterior exhibition, while connecting the area to the wider heritage district. The buildings opened with Sharjah Biennial 11 in 2013.

Wasit Wetland Centre brings visitors unobtrusively to a rehabilitated chain of coastal wetlands, a habitat for birds and a green lung for Sharjah. The centre informs visitors about the many bird species, including 33,000 migrating birds and other local fauna, and encourages the preservation of the wetlands. The architecture of the centre uses the site’s existing topography to minimise the structure’s visual impact, with an underground passage and low-profile observation stations.

Concrete is a venue for art and cultural events in the Alserkal Avenue cultural hub in a former industrial complex in Dubai. Its flexible floor plan, with four eight-metre-high pivoting and sliding walls, allows easy adaptation and maximum use of the space for a variety of events. The project is the first in the UAE for OMA, or the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, the firm co-founded by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.

The Aga Khan Award honours excellence in building concepts that address the needs of communities in which Muslims have a significant presence. The shortlisted projects are now undergoing examination by a team of experts who evaluate each project on-site. The winner of the US$1 million prize will be announced this autumn. Catherine Bolgar

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