Concrete at Alserkal Avenue Image Credit: Aga Khan Trust for Culture

Dubai: Three architecture projects in the UAE have been shortlisted for the prestigious 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

They include: Concrete at Alserkal Avenue, in Dubai, a major element of a former industrial complex that has been transformed into a cultural hub; the Al Mureijah Art Spaces, in Sharjah, which encompasses the renovation of five dilapidated buildings that offered the perfect urban and architectural setting for a contemporary art venue; and the Wasit Wetland Centre, in Sharjah, a design that transforms a wasteland into a wetland and functions as a catalyst for biodiversity and environmental education.

According to a press release sent to Gulf News, the announcement was made by Farrokh Derakhshani, Director of the Award, in a ceremony in Kazan, Russia, on Thursday, April 25.

The 20 shortlisted projects for the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture will compete for US$ 1 million in prize money.

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture is one of the oldest major awards in the field of architecture. It selects projects – from slum upgrading to high-rise “green” buildings – that not only exhibit architectural excellence but also improve the overall quality of life.

The Award rewards architects, but also identifies municipalities, builders, clients, master artisans and engineers who have played important roles in the realization of a project.

“The common element of all three shortlisted projects in the UAE is really education,” said Derakhshani.

Both Concrete at Alserkal Avenue and the Al Mureijah Art Spaces are dedicated to educating people about culture, and Wasit Wetland Centre is dedicated to environmental education. All are dedicated to helping people understand the world in which we live in today.

Concrete at Alserkal Avenue, Dubai

Concrete at Alserkal Avenue, Dubai
The entire structure was produced locally, helping raise the standards of manufacturing and production in the UAE. Image Credit: Aga Khan Trust for Culture

Concrete at Alserkal Avenue, a former industrial complex in Dubai, has been transformed into a cultural hub. This project took four existing warehouses and reimagined them to create Concrete, a flexible, multipurpose space for artists and cultural events in the centre of the complex.

In order to maximise the area for events, the services were consolidated at one end of the building. The entrance and events space, with a flexible floorplan containing four 8-metre high pivoting and sliding walls, are situated close to The Yard, the district’s main outdoor public space. The front façade has large-scale, translucent doors that open onto The Yard, forming a symbiotic relationship between indoors and outdoors and allowing activities to flow between both spaces.

Al Mureijah Art Spaces, Sharjah

Underground systems were installed to provide air-conditioning and to free the roofscapes. Image Credit: Aga Khan Trust for Culture

The Al Mureijah Art Spaces emerged from the Sharjah Biennial, when the Sharjah Foundation wanted to make investments in non-museum spaces while simultaneously reclaiming historic links to the city centre. Five dilapidated buildings in the Al Mureijah neighbourhood offered the perfect urban and architectural setting for a contemporary art venue.

Now renovated and combined with additional outdoor exhibition areas, the five buildings provide a range of interior and exterior spaces to experience art in a variety of ambiences. Rooftops were cleared and interconnected to serve as extra open-air galleries and particular attention was given to natural lighting. The Sharjah Art Spaces were designed so as to allow the continued preservation of almost 40 percent of the urban fabric while creating a new gathering place for local and international art enthusiasts.

Wasit Wetland Centre, Sharjah

The centre also contains documentation and displays about the wetlands, and a cafeteria and shop. Image Credit: Aga Khan Trust for Culture

Wasit Wetland Centre is part of a much larger project to clean up and rehabilitate an ancient chain of wetlands along the coast. The Centre aims to provide information and education about this unique environment – and to encourage its preservation. The architecture of the centre uses the existing topography of the site to minimise the structure’s visual impact. Upon arrival, visitors are led underground along a pathway into a linear gallery with a transparent wall that allows them to observe birds in their natural habitat.

The centre also has shops, restaurants, lecture halls and offices. Eight bird observation structures are built around the wetland route. The site offers a safe place for reproduction for local fauna and migrant birds, and a unique opportunity to learn about and connect to nature – while serving as a green lung for the inhabitants of Sharjah.

The sites will now undergo a rigorous investigation by experts who visit and evaluate each project on-site. Their reports are the basis for the Master Jury’s selection of the eventual laureates.

Aga Khan Award

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture was established by the Aga Khan in 1977 to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of communities in which Muslims have a significant presence.

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The Award recognises examples of architectural excellence in the fields of contemporary design, social housing, community improvement and development, historic preservation, reuse and area conservation, as well as landscape design and improvement of the environment. Since the Award was launched 42 years ago, 116 projects have received the award and more than 9,000 building projects have been documented.

Full list of 20 shortlisted projects

United Arab Emirates

Concrete at Alserkal Avenue, in Dubai, the major element of a former industrial complex that has been transformed into a cultural hub.

Al Mureijah Art Spaces, in Sharjah, the renovation of five dilapidated buildings that offered the perfect urban and architectural setting for a contemporary art venue.

Wasit Wetland Centre, in Sharjah, a design that transforms a wasteland into a wetland and functions as a catalyst for biodiversity and environmental education.


Revitalization of Muharraq, offers testimony on the pearl trade in the Arabian Peninsula over the centuries, especially when Bahrain thrived during the 19th century.


Arcadia Education Project, in South Kanarchor, a modular amphibious structure – incorporating space for a preschool, a hostel, a nursery and a vocational training centre – which is tied down on a riverine site that is often flooded for five months every year.

Amber Denim Loom Shed, in Gazipur, a new design that combines traditional Bangladeshi residential architecture and contemporary elements in a large open space that accommodates machines, a buyers’ lounge, a dining space, a prayer area and washrooms.


Courtyard House Plugin, in Beijing, a prefabricated modular system first developed as a prototype for installation within courtyard houses in the traditionally Muslim district of Dashilar, which is home to communities who do not have the means to renovate.


Tadjourah SOS Children's Village, a design based on a traditional medina and a layout of narrow streets that maximises shade and ventilation while providing shelter for the most vulnerable in society.


Warka Water, a prototype first implemented in Dorza, consists of an elegant triangular frame made out of local bamboo that encloses a thin polyester mesh – which captures droplets from high humidity in the air.


•Enghelab Street Rehabilitation, in Tehran, encompasses both the rehabilitation of the façades of 114 existing buildings and the creation of public cultural space between the national theatre and opera house.


•Taman Bima Microlibrary, in Bandung, aims to help combat Indonesia’s low literacy rates by adding a microlibrary above a pre-existing stage used for community events.

•AM Residence, in Jakarta, a design inspired by Indonesian vernacular stilt houses that favour natural ventilation; walls are minimised and windows kept simple for a seamless interior-to-exterior relationship.


•Jarahieh School, in Al-Marj, which provides educational facilities for children from 300 Syrian refugee families, creates a hub for community activities and offers the settlement’s only secure shelter in the event of snowstorm or earthquake.


•Muttrah Fish Market, in Muscat, which highlights the region’s trade and fishing traditions while also catering to Oman’s growing tourism industry.


•Palestinian Museum, in Birzeit, which crowns a terraced hill overlooking the Mediterranean and is the recipient of the LEED Gold certification because of its sustainable construction.


•Msheireb Museums, in Doha, which incorporates four historic courtyard houses dating from the early 20th century that together comprise an element of the cultural development of downtown Doha.

Russian Federation

•Tatarstan Public Spaces Development Programme, a programme that, to date, has improved 328 public spaces all over Tatarstan in areas ranging from major cities to small villages.


•Alioune Diop University Lecture Building in Bambey, where a scarcity of resources led to the use of bioclimatic strategies: a large double roof canopy and latticework that avoids direct solar radiation but allows air to flow through it.


•Beyazıt State Library Renovation, in Istanbul, the renovation of a 19th century library – housed within a 16th century building – that displays rare manuscripts and architectural heritage.


•Ashinaga Uganda Dormitory, in Nansana, a residential school that prepares outstanding students from sub-Saharan Africa for entry into higher ed