BACA President receives 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture

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Kazan, Sep. 13 (BNA): President of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA), Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, was conferred the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture by Prince Karim Aga Khan for BACA’s “Revitalisation of Muharraq” Project.


The award-distribution ceremony was held at the Tatar Musa Jalil State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, in the presence of former Tatarstan Republic President, Mintimer Shaimiev.


The ceremony also featured the honouring of the “Revitalisation of Muharraq” Project’s work team, represented by engineers Noora Al-Sayeh and Ghassan Al-Shamali, as the well as the honouring of five other projects from Arab and Islamic countries.


Commenting, Shaikha Mai asserted that the prestigious award is the fruitful outcome of the tremendous efforts exerted for years to revitalise Bahrain’s old towns and cities, including Muharraq which, she said, is gaining a global importance year after year, stressing that investment in culture is a means to achieve sustainability.


Shaikha Mai affirmed that Bahrain’s continuous cultural achievements are the result of the support of the kingdom’s leadership, led by the first supporter of culture, His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, noting that the royal support has contributed to promoting Bahrain’s reputation as a regional and global centre for culture.


She extended thanks to the officials and jury of the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture for their confidence in the "Revitalisation of Muharraq” Project, and constant support for architectural projects aimed at shedding light on exceptional sites across the Arab and Islamic worlds.


She stressed the importance of constructive cooperation between the public and private sectors in Muharraq, citing the efforts of the Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa’s Centre for Culture and Research.


According to the Aga Khan Award committee, the project, initiated as a series of restoration and adaptive reuse of a number of edifices under the Shaikh Ebrahim Centre for Culture and Research, has evolved into a comprehensive programme entitled “Pearling Path, Testimony of an Island Economy”, UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012, involving various architects, planners and researchers.


The project both highlights the town’s pearling history and aims to re-balance its demographic makeup, enticing local families back through improvements to the environment and provision of community and cultural venues.


Facilitated by private–public partnerships, it involves the preservation of a number of sites and numerous buildings, from humble divers’ houses to prestigious courtyard residences to commercial warehouses; plus the upgrading of other façades, and the construction of four new buildings. All of these are connected through a visitor pathway, with vacant plots left by demolitions landscaped as public spaces. The preservation/restoration of the traditional buildings included reinstating lost wind towers for natural climate control.


The 2019 Aga Khan  Award is not a first major international award recognition testimony of the city of Muharraq as genuine historical, cultural, architectural and urban fabrics’ hub, given that in 2018, the city was celebrated as the Capital of Islamic culture for a whole year. During 2018, a series of cultural projects, such as the inauguration of Pearling Path Visitor Center, a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2010, Bahrain was present in the trophies and awards world, winning the  2010 Venice Biennale, as the first Arab country  to be honored with the Golden Lion Award for Bahraini fisherman’s hut on the shoreline, basically inspired by urban elements form the city of Muharraq.


The city of Muharraq also hosts many  new buildings respect the historic environment’s scale and street lines while making bold contemporary architectural statements. In addition to  the Pearling Path Visitor and Shaikh Ebrahim Center Centre and the House of Architectural Heritage that adopt a Brutalist aesthetic, Bahrain Culture Authority manages many other important cultural venues in the city, such as Al-Hidaya al Khalifiya School, Al-Khalifiya Library. The  2015 Milano Expo Archaeologies of Green pavilion features a series of interlinking gardens containing indigenous plants; and the Dar Al Jinaa Centre for Traditional Music is inventively cloaked in chain mail, shielding against solar glare while allowing a constant breeze. Music events here and elsewhere in the programme include performances of pearl-fishers’ songs.


It is to be noted that the Aga Khan Award winners, in addition to the “Revitalisation of Muharraq”,  are “ Arcadia Education Project” in South Kanarchor (Bangladesh), Palestinian Museum in Birzeit (Palestine), Public Spaces Development Programme in the Republic of Tatarstan, Alioune Diop University Teaching and Research Unit in Bambey (Senegal) and Wasit Wetland Centre in Sharjah (UAE).