With all the work put into any given architectural work, it is nice to receive accolades for the inherent effort in the practice. There are various agencies that bring light to lesser known efforts and projects in architecture. One such agency is the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). For over fifty years, the AKDN has striven to actively engage in, and bring positive attention to projects in various practices. Specifically, they hold awards for notable altruistic architecture projects. The program supports architectural projects that aid the less fortunate all around the world.
Though the namesake of the program has strong ties to Islam, the agency conducts its humanitarian business in a nondenominational fashion. Approximately 80,000 workers in thirty different countries work together to uplift various communities that lack adequate resources and services. The projects are conducted based upon need. Many can be found in sub-Saharan Africa, central and southern Asia, and the Middle East. From its meager beginnings as a nonprofit organization helping the Ismaili community, the organization has grown greatly in a relatively short amount of time ("Press centre: Frequently," 2007) .
A recent recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture is a project conducted in Khartoum, Sudan. The Salam Cardiac Surgery Centre was completed in 2010. The 14,000 sq. meter (150,695 sq. ft.) complex was designed by Studio Tamassociati from Venice, Italy. It consists of a hospital with sixty-three beds and three hundred local staff and a separate Medical Staff Accommodation Compound where the medical staff resides. The buildings flank multiple expansive courtyards. The amenities within the hospital block are of a high caliber. They include three separate operating rooms, diagnostics laboratories, and various other elements.
An interesting aspect of the project is the inclusion of the shipping containers for the construction material as the medical center's staff lodging and amenities. Ninety 20-foot containers were used to create the staff complex. Each separate unit consists of 1.5 containers with a bathroom and veranda that faces a courtyard. Seven 40-foot containers comprise the cafeteria and other services. Each building built from containers is insulated from the interior and has a ventilated metal roof. Water heating for the whole complex is taken care of by a solar farm ("Salam cardiac surgery," 2007).
To be eligible for the AKDN Award for Architecture, a project must have been in use for at least one full year to ensure the feasibility of the concepts pursued. All building types can be considered for nomination. No discrimination is made upon scale, purpose, designers, or other affiliations.
The Aga Khan Development Network and its associated Award for Architecture is a great example of humanitarian work implemented throughout the world. Under the guidance of the organization, architects and designers can find the means and motivation to act as true stewards of the built environment as it can help those who need it most. Altruistic design can be seen as the highest calling for the talent that is already inherent in the architecture community.
For more information on the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and other progressive programs like it, please visit:
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Press centre: Frequently asked questions. (2007). Retrieved from http://www.akdn.org/faq.asp
Salam cardiac surgery centre. (2007). Retrieved from http://www.akdn.org/architecture/project.asp? id=4438