Tamayouz Excellence Award


Tamayouz Excellence Award is delighted to announce the winners of its Dewan Award for Architecture 2021.

The Dewan Award for Architecture, held in partnership with Dewan Architects + Engineers, is an annual thematic prize that calls on participants from around the world to respond to Iraq-specific issues.

This year, the award’s theme was the design of a sanctuary for homeless underage girls, as well as older female teens (4-18 yrs old), seeking proposals that were mindful of the existing urban fabric, as well as providing a safe and comfortable space for the girls that support their health, educational and psychosocial needs and helps them to achieve their potential.  

The winners were selected out of 162 submissions from 40 countries received this year based on the criteria set in the award’s brief, which called on participants to submit proposals for a girls’ sanctuary in Iraq.

The first prize winner for the Dewan Award for Architecture 2021 is Ahmed Ali Abdelsamad, Nada Abdo Amin, Bassant Hossam Eldin Mohamed from Cairo Egypt. The second prize goes to Vishal Jayan from Mumbai, India and the third prize goes to Ayman Mohamed Ismail and Aya Mostafa Amin  from Cairo, Egypt. The Dewan Award also recognises seven honourable mentions.

The members of the jury panel for the Dewan Award for Architecture 2021 are:

  • Professor Jala Makhzoumi – Lebanon: Professor of Landscape Design, Academic at the American University of Beirut and co-founder of Unit44.
  • Professor Shaaban Taha Shaaban –Egypt: Dean Of Shoubra Engineering Faculty – Benha University.
  • Professor Wendy Pullan – UK: Professor of architecture and urban studies, and director of the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research, University of Cambridge.
  • Dr Davide Ponzini – Italy: Associate professor of urban planning at Politecnico di Milano and the Director of the Tau-lab research group.
  • Nadia Habash – Palestine: Head of the Palestinian Engineering Association / Founder of Habash Consulting Engineers / Adjunct Professor Beirzet University
  • Kathy Basheva – UK: Director of Basheva Studio in London and RIBA chartered architect.
  • Mohamed Al-Assam – Iraq/UAE: Chairman of Dewan Architects + Engineers
  • Lucinda Anis – UK: Urban Researcher and Architect at Foster + Partners
  • Ahmed Al-Azzawi – Iraq/UK: Award-winning architect and Technical Delivery Manager at Barratt Developments.
  • Ahmed Al-Mallak – Founding Director of Tamayouz Excellence Award and Academic at Coventry University.

To read about the other finalists for the Dewan Award for Architecture, click here.

The winner and finalists will be celebrated during the Tamayouz Excellence Award’s annual ceremony held at the end of 2022.

After reviewing the submissions, the jury commented:

“The competition was difficult for two main reasons; First, it is hard to get the feeling right for children who have had terrible experiences and need to find the will to change their lives.  Second, it is hard to work from nothing on an empty site.

The overall quality of submissions was very good, Scale and density have been particularly important and those who have got this right have the best projects. Interior spaces and their contrast to the open river have been significant.  Some projects failed to respond to the challenge by accentuating the scale of buildings making them better suited to an urban site and would for sure overwhelm the little girls spatially and alienate rather than ‘shelter’ them.

The projects which have attempted to address the landscape and agricultural nature of the site have tended to be more interesting. Outdoor spaces are very important for children, many of whom have been living on the street. They need to be safe, plentiful, varied. Small things can take on big meanings – e.g. a tree, a window ledge, a small meeting place, etc. – those who brought these in seem to have grasped some of the difficulties of planning for troubled children.”

The Prizes

  • First prize: Six months employment at Dewan Architects + Engineers, renewable for up to one year with 10,000AED salary per month ($2,722). OR $6000 cash prize. And an invitation to attend the annual ceremony.
  • Second prize: $3000 and certificate. And an invitation to attend the annual ceremony.
  • Third prize: $1,000 and certificate. And an invitation to attend the annual ceremony.
  • Honourable Mentions: Certificate and invitation to attend the annual ceremony.

Jury Comments on the Winners

First Place – Ahmed Ali Abdelsamad, Nada Abdo Amin, Bassant Hossam Eldin Mohamed from Cairo Egypt

The Judging Panel comment:

“The jury found the scale of the proposal is simple yet effective in the spaces that are created due to the meandering spine.  The central idea of the spine is presented in a playful and graphic way that can lead to a certain curiosity by the younger girls. The elevated shaded terraces create a private realm in the sky where the more mature girls can have their privacy. The environmental proposal is sound, using cavity walls, wind towers and light stone material and shading devices to mitigate the sun. However, another missed opportunity with using the river as a source of programme, zoning, irrigation/energy.

The proposal is divided into three areas of housing, academic, sport and hobbies – scaled up from the river. Change in scale crosses with the three areas to give an interesting complexity to the planning. This proposal originally addresses the riverfront by placing the residential units along the river. In the simple decision to place the residential units there, the idea of wellness and healing is now integrated into the daily living environments of the girls. It is interesting to see a proposal where the riverfront is not entirely swallowed by the array of communal activities – this emphasizes the importance of water and the healing qualities of being close to it on a daily and consistent basis; classrooms also look out to the river; the river path is clear, accessible. Curved paths give it to order but not too formal. 

The volumetric and architectural expression is successful but the use of stone in Iraq is questionable.

The inner makings of the sanctuary itself sit in a fair harmony, however, the zoning of the project itself seems to be quite dissected in half, with the living and dining spaces on one side and the majority of the communal programmes clustered on the other. In terms of its relation to the surrounding urban context, the spine’s entry point responds well to the existing road on the East of the site. The scale of the project and the resulting in-between spaces of the forked tissue typology creates some beautiful moments within the sanctuary”.

Second Place – Vishal Jayan from Mumbai, India

The judging panel comment:

This proposal is very intentional in its design, with a strong emphasis on creating a foundation based on communal/collective activities. The introduction of fruit orchards and vegetable gardens between houses harbours a nurturing environment where caring for a piece of the environment/the girls surrounding landscape enables a feeling of control and healing. The attraction of surrounding life through these gardens cleverly integrates a restorative journey for the landscape and the girls, this is a step further in the consideration of the environmental impacts of the sanctuary on the site. Moreover, the eroding riverbed has been addressed in a delicate and non-obtrusive manner. Programmatically, the use of the sanctuary has been planned in relation to the context, cleverly placing the learning spaces or reflection/ contemplation on the riverfront. Through the integration of the river through addressing it by elevating the programme from the ground plane, the balance of the proposal is maintained, preventing it from feeling like a detached rural neighbourhood.

The aspiration of the project is rooted in both the architecture and master planning of the project. The proposal considers three different scales to the sanctuary of Unit ‘home’, Cluster‘ and ‘Neighbourhood’. The consideration of these varying scales within the sanctuary allows for a more organic, city-like feeling. Furthermore, ensuring these scales sit in harmony with one another is a difficult challenge, which I believe has the beginnings of a design through the interacting scales of gardens and terraces.

The social aspect of the girls’ lives is present in the narrative of these architectural elements, highlighting the importance of creating communal outdoor spaces that protrude between the individual units – this is imperative for the healthy social development of the girls especially between the different ages. Perhaps the most intelligent aspect of this sanctuary is the porosity of its borders. The intentional placement of the school on the most public part of the master plan achieves two things: the first is to negate the idea of an insular, gated community with an independent system severed from its surrounding context and people. The second is to challenge the idea of this specific group of girls only having access to one another – but instead fostering a healthy, organic social environment through the prospect of sharing education with other girls around the area. This is an important idea to be given credit for. It is a progressive approach that denies the idea of an exclusive ‘membership’ within the sanctuary.

However, the series of courtyards laid out side by side, each is very similar, hard to distinguish functions. Many ideas about using the spaces – orchards, vegetable gardens, workshops, playgrounds, etc. but it all looks the same. Only the school is separate.  The elegant vaulted buildings are not alien to the context but  endless repetition of the vault (same scale) is monotonous and fails to reflect the different uses of the buildings, residential and communal.”

Third Place – Ayman Mohamed Ismail and Aya Mostafa Amin from Cairo, Egypt

The judging panel comment:

“A very competent design. Low scale clusters of courtyard housing, public buildings in the centre are a little larger and well defined. Introverted spaces but also the nice treatment of riverside with a wide walkway – although it does not take full advantage of the local conditions and a little too much of ‘public architecture’ feel for traumatised girls.

The 45o shift of the grid creates interesting spaces which are organized successfully to reflect the hierarchy of uses from the small scale residential to the communal. 

The project responds to the requirements and uses a clever typological pattern for housing and a small courtyard for different units and plenty of open space, despite low-rise preference.  The master plan provides a fair distribution of functions and access.

While it is commendable to consider passive cooling elements in architecture, the wind towers that are typical to the Gulf States functions with multi-directional winds not the predominantly northwestern winds in Iraq.  The concept of earth-sheltered architecture is appropriate to the context but has to consider the rising water table in the spring.”

Jury Comments on the Honourable Mentions
(Arranged alphabetically)

Agora Architects (Cao Duc Hoa, Giap Thi Minh Trang and Dau Van Phuong) from Hanoi, Vietnam

The judging panel comment:

This proposal puts village-style housing along the riverfront and public buildings behind. Agri-rafts on the river for each household has the advantage of turning the waterfront into a street. lateral segregation of residential (river) and communal activities (street) is successful because it uses the former as a security buffer for the residences while providing them with a view of the river.


The overall structure is well defined. Functions are well distributed. The design process is clear and the rationale is very interesting. The pattern for the settlement is advanced and sound, however, the details of the programme are lacking and the spatial hierarchy is unclear.


The sense of ‘security’ Is provided through the knowledge cloisters surrounding the shelters which is a successful method of encapsulating the private spaces within the core of those more public. Sense of space is abstract and underdeveloped and the agri-raft needs to consider the drop in water levels, especially in the summer.

Annete Priyadarshini, David Einarsson, Hikmatyar Abdul Aziz, Kumaresan Muthukumarasamy and Siyu Lu from Lund, Sweden 

The judging panel comment:

“The functional offerings of the project are rich and provide good opportunities for common and social activities beyond standard schooling. Their spatial outline seems flexible and adaptable to the emerging needs of users.  The design choices are well explained and the relationship with the waterfront and landscape is articulated, the circulation scheme is sound and responds to different modes and users

A sensitively designed layout with an interesting range of outdoor spaces provides a successful transition from indoor to outdoor with a range of sheltered spaces and allocates functions to outdoor spaces.  The proposal responds to the rural context and the waterfront well connected to the community hall.”

Dana Khaled Ibrahim, Sara Nabeel Mo’adi, Bayan Al Omari from Amman, Jordan

The judging panel comment:

“In this proposal, the relationship with context is well-conceived and articulated, both socially and environmentally. The landscape is considered, regional architectural language, technologies and materials are used.  The functional scheme is simple and clever, the pattern provides a fairly good rhythm of built and open spaces.

The openness to the community is an important addition and the interface for girls to connect with the community is remarkable. The green and natural components are not ornamental but integrated with the use of space and girls’ activities (e.g. horticulture).

Considerable care for the design of spaces but little coherence or sense that they are specific to this site and purpose. The waterfront infrastructure attempts to address view and breeze but is oversized, the design intention and gesture does not match with the call.”

Eslam Mohamed Shahen, Eslam Elwakel, Abdalla Nabiel, Anas Gaballh, Toqa Hesham and Zainab Ahmed from Al-Qaliubya, Egypt

The judging panel comment:

“An interactive reaction to the surrounding context and its visual connection to the river, proposing three connected courtyards of diminishing sizes with a simple but workable planning – although the idea of a ‘life journey’ may be overly ambitious.

There is a progression from private to public present in the planning of the sanctuary – placing the gallery on a different axis facing the river sets it out to represent something different within the spaces. Perhaps there could be a more increased interaction with the river, and a level of interest created around the residences but combining some of the programmes on that side of the masterplan.

Comparative studies with Iraqi architectural precedents – However the result is overly urban, the hanging gardens of Babylon, are too grand, perhaps not the right inspiration for the rural context of Al-Mada’in.”

HQKA Team (Saleen Habash, Haya Abu Baker, Leen Al Khaldi, Rania Abbad, Laith Qadan, Mohammad Hammad) from Amman, Jordan

The judging panel comment:

“This proposal bravely considers different means of using the surrounding context to its best ability. On a local level, it references the agricultural industry available in the surrounding context. Furthermore, the proposal bases its conditions for the sanctuary on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, reinforcing its concepts by the naturally available resources.

Proposing a prototype that can be replicated and expanded in the future is a clever notion – in a sense, this perhaps should’ve been pushed further, applying more experimental architectural and programmatic solutions as a means of testing them out – perhaps on a rotational basis to establish the most successful iterations of the sanctuary.

The environmental strategy is evident and considered and seems fitting with the ethos of the sanctuary itself. Sustainable materials are used, the arch is used in certain areas as a reference to traditional architecture. There is however a slight lack in how the decisions of the programme on-site were made. The plans appear generic and too rigid for a prototype.”

Mohamed Hesham, Matthew Moheib, Merna Atef, Asmaa Salah, Khalid Abdallah from Cairo, Egypt

The judging panel comment:

“This entry is inspired by the Iraqi traditional house, the design proposes the use of overhangs supported on columns, which are well suited climatically and functionally providing transitional spaces from the interior to the exposed outdoors. This proposal is successful due to a strong tectonic narrative. The hierarchy of elements from structure, module, courtyards and landscape sits in balance and creates a harmonious environment.

It is successful in massing, architectural expression and the use of material (reeds/bamboo), but not the use of wood for structure, which is not readily available in Iraq.

Connection with water is simple but a stepped approach to the river’s edge may be too overbearing. Perhaps a more environmental emphasis should be placed on the landscape, the river, the sun and the wind – all the naturally present elements. ”

Reem Hussein from Amman, Jordan

The judging panel comment:

“The river is reacted to by creating a large elevated walkway which is one of the main architectural features of the sanctuary – perhaps too large in scale and too urban. Courtyard spaces, intimate spaces are created too which provide beautiful moments.

This proposal interestingly utilizes arches and form diverse and varied spaces. There is a level of response to the surrounding context however this is not sufficiently pushed. Beyond caring for the gardens, which is an interesting concept, there is little reference to the planning of the sanctuary in relation to the healing process of the girls. Challenging the context with the river, the surrounding sites, the palms and the road has not been necessarily addressed.

The arch creates a striking reference to traditional architecture. The choice of material of locally available mud blocks also further enhances this notion. There is a solidity to the exterior of the sanctuary as the proposal intends, with punctures of light and air In between – this balance works quite well. However, creating an elevated concrete walkway that doesn’t double up as another form of programme is a little lacking in innovation and environmental thought.”

The award is named after Dewan Architects + Engineers, one of the world’s most established and leading architecture firms, particularly to emerge from the Middle East. The Dewan Award is an international award that seeks to recognise design proposals that respond to local challenges in Iraq.

For its inaugural theme in 2018, the award sought proposals for a school in Iraq’s marshlands. Information about 2018 winners can be found here. In 2019, the award theme was the regeneration of Al Umma Park in Baghdad, and information on the winning projects can be found here.  In 2020 the award theme was to design a  youth house and plaza in Baghdad’s Sadr City Information about 2020 winners can be found here

Tamayouz Excellence Award is sponsored by Dewan Architects + Engineers, Kufa – Makiya Charity, the Iraqi Business Council in Jordan, Coventry University, British Airways, Al-Tuhafi Architects, Bonair Ltd and the United Nations Global Compact – Iraq Network.

Stay tuned

Receive All the Tamayouz Updates

Skip to content