17 October 2013

Aga Kahn Award for Architecture Goes to Rabat-Salé Urban Infrastructure Project

Hassan II Bridge
This past September the winners of the Aga Kahn Award for Architecture were announced.  Started in 1977 the Aga Kahn Award for Architecture is presented every three years to projects that successfully address the needs and aspirations of Islamic societies.  Unlike other architecture awards, such as the Pritzker Prize, the award is given projects that demonstrate excellence and not an individual.  Among this years winners was the Rabat-Salé Urban Infrastructure Project in Rabat, Morocco.  

Upon first glance the project appears to be no more that a simple bridge.  It is in fact a bridge, the Hassan II Bridge, but it is not simple, it contains multiple levels accommodating a tramway, motor vehicle, and pedestrian traffic.  While one could point out the elegant curves of the subtly varying arches that make up the bridges structure the real reason to admire the project is its function.  Not only does the bridge unite the neighboring cities of Rabat and Salé it also provides an urban roof over a public space that will contain markets and leisure activities thus not only providing a connection between the cities but offering opportunities for social and economic growth.  Additionally the scale of the Hassan II Bridge relates to the overwhelming horizontality of the surrounding built and natural environments, respecting its context.  This seemingly simple infrastructure project addresses the transportation needs of the two cities while respecting their scale and providing space for their inhabitants, truly considering its full impact. 

The Aga Kahn jury noted the Hassan II Bridge "anticipates a long term vision of the cities of Rabat and Salé...provid[ing] opportunities for future development [it] successfully combines a bridge with urban planning, landscape and infrastructure improvements."  This should be a note to other architectural awards that while "form follows function" it is the function that should be truly celebrated. 

For more details on the project, as well as the other winners of this years Aga Kahn Award for Architecture, visit the awards official website at www.akdn.org/architecture

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