Tamayouz Excellence Award


Tamayouz Excellence Award is proud to announce the winners of its Rifat Chadirji Prize, an annual thematic prize named after the prolific Iraqi architect and academic Dr Rifat Chadirji. Part of Tamayouz’s seven-category awards programme, the prize was held in partnership with Barjeel Art Foundation for its 2019 cycle.

This year, the prize sought proposals for a modern Arab art museum in Sharjah, UAE, to house Barjeel’s extensive art collection, which consists of artwork sourced from across the Middle East.

The winning project is by AIDIA STUDIO, which consists of Rolando Rodriguez Leal and Natalia Wrzask. Second prize goes to SOLID, which includes Nader Moro and Sameh Zayed, and third prize goes to Mohamed Hassan Elgendy. The Rifat Chadirji Prize also recognises a People’s Choice Award (selected by a wider group of academics and practicing architects), which is given to Cell Studio: Mohamed Sami Saeed, Tarek Ali, Mohamed Sarhan and Sama Abdelkarim, and another six honourable mentions.

The winners were selected by Tamayouz’s jury members, who met in October 2019 at Coventry University in the UK. The judges this year were:

  • Stephen Austin, head of School of Energy, Construction and Environment at Coventry University (the academic partner of Tamayouz); Coventry, UK
  • ​Dr Rasem Badran, founder of Dar Al-Omran; Amman, Jordan
  • Dia Azzawi, celebrated Iraqi artist; London, UK
  • ​Claudia Linders, architect and dean of architecture and urbanism at Fontys Academy; Tilburg, The Netherlands
  • Fernando Olba, principal of Fernando Olba Arquitectura + Urbanismo; Valencia, Spain
  • Mandy Franz, senior associate at MICA Architects; London, UK
  • Nahed Jawad, academic and principal at Nahed Jawad Architects; London, UK
  • Philip Michael Wolfson, founder of Wolfson Design; Miami, US

The winning proposals and honourabe mentions were selected from a shortlist of 20 submissions, which was released in September 2019. Selection of the finalists was based on the criteria set in the competition’s brief. Commended designs were those that contextualise Sharjah’s history and cultural identity in a contemporary manner, and that were informed by local cultural heritage and environmental conditions.

The winners and finalists will be celebrated and awarded during Tamayouz Excellence Award’s annual ceremony in December, 2019 in Amman, Jordan.

The Prizes
– First prize is the Rifat Chadirji Prize Statuette, designed by celebrated Iraqi artist Dia Azzawi, $5000, certificate and an all-expenses-covered trip to attend the 2019 award ceremony.
– Second prize (sponsored by BIMLab) is $1000, certificates and an all-expenses-covered trip to attend the 2019 award ceremony.
– Third prize is $1000, certificates and an all-expenses-covered trip to attend the 2019 award ceremony.
– People’s Choice Award is $500, certificate and an all-expenses-covered trip to attend the 2019 award ceremony.

The Winners

First prize – AIDIA STUDIO (Rolando Rodriguez Leal and Natalia Wrzask); Mexico City, Mexico
​“This project features elegant graphics and a beautifully thought-through analysis. It very cleverly interprets regional architectural, social and vernacular expressions. The roof, made of wood and based on a traditional Emirati weaving structure, generates a contemporary motif that naturally filters daylight and creates surprisingly high – and beautiful – semi-public spaces and landscapes, such as the sculpture route and walkway. The woven quality of the roof further allows the walls to be dynamic, as shade patterns created by the sun’s changing position during the day dances across them. The walls therefore become a festive skin.

“Also, while the tower appears introverted, a corner boundary wall that is half-height opens the building to the surrounding context. This offers an element of respect and makes the building less intimidating.

“The contemporary reinterpretation and form of the original barjeel is also very successful. The design has a very consistent choice of materials in which the raw stone of the base has a strong connection with the landscape structure – it almost looks like a quarry where the spaces have been carved out. The light, transparent wooden structure gives the whole project a light-footed refinement. Behind the choice of materials there is also a well-thought-out installation concept.”

Second prize (sponsored by BIMLab) – SOLID (Nader Moro and Sameh Zayed); Cairo, Egypt ​​
“This project uses Barjeel’s art collection as a starting point in its development of a spatial concept. The observation of the present fragmentation in the collection inspires an approach to the museum as a collection of fragments. This makes it possible to create a far-reaching interweaving between the landscape and the building, thus establishing a strong connection with the city. This connection exists literally in the sense that the public domain as a continuous space is interwoven with the complex, as well as figuratively in terms of morphology by linking up with the characteristic structure of the urban context.

“The architects opted for a strong division of the programme into two layers: an underworld focused on exhibition space and an overworld with space for events and a roof garden. This results in a design that is rich in spatial experiences, especially in the places where both layers meet, which, in turn, strengthen the scenography and encourage discovery and exploration of the building.

“The architects created a living building – a cell that will keep growing with the community and art collection. The use of palm trees as shading devices is also welcome, as palm trees are part of the region’s landscape heritage.”

Third prize – Mohamed Hassan Elgendy; Cairo, Egypt
​“This is a novel proposal that presents some very dramatic possibilities for interaction with the surrounding community and context. The design considers the heritage and local culture, and its clearness is admirable. The simplicity of the cube and plaza below creates a calm reflective space embedded in the geology and culture.

“As a cultural plaza with a central public space, the design offers an attractive and inviting area for meetings, community building, temporary events and performances. This intervention under the raised volume of the museum is a strong statement, and the sloping ground level takes on the character of an amphitheatre. The patios further act as lightwells, and bring daylight into the lower domain. Through these patios, a glimpse of the exhibition space can be seen from below – a wonderful contrast to the hermetically sealed outer façade of the lifted box, and a powerful and beautiful field of tension.”

People’s Choice Award – Cell Studio (Mohamed Sami Saeed, Tarek Ali, Mohamed Sarhan and Sama Abdelkarim); Giza, Egypt
“This project fulfils the competition brief in an original and exciting proposal that melds the historical with the contemporary and addresses numerous other issues, such as regional verses international, as well as traditional verses contemporary. It connects the past with the future, and the idea of the Arab art house is clear in the spaces.

“Overall, the project proposes a very strong landmark and an iconic picture. It fits the context perfectly and could not have been placed anywhere else.”

Honourable Mentions
*Arranged in alphabetical order

2×1 Architects: Kutlu İnanç Bal and Hakan Evkaya; Ankara, Turkey
“The design responds clearly to the typology of a museum by considering circulation, arrival and environmental condition. It includes elements that are contextual, like the windcatcher and courtyard gardens. However, reducing the building to a single storey from the outside might not achieve its presence within its location; therefore, we are not sure the design was clearly considered with the location in mind; although, the landscape plan is beautifully done.”

aaa-studio: Livie Sukma Taristania, Insani Aulia Qisti and Armadhani Zula; Malang, Indonesia
“This programme proposes an interesting conceptual idea for integrating calligraphy as a façade element, going even further than just a façade treatment. The museum does not shy away from grand gestures, and the shape of the volume provides beautiful outdoor spaces and naturally forms the entrance area where the building protrudes and serves as a covered canopy. However, perhaps the building is too massive and over-imposed, with the external form creating a lack of natural light inside. Also, the elaborate design of the inside could distract from the art displayed – perhaps it could be reduced in some areas to let the art speak.”

Habibeh Madjdabadi Architecture Studio; Tehran, Iran
​“The submission has carefully analysed the context, which is shown through the positioning of the building and the choice of material and architectural components. We appreciate the programme responding to different types of visitors, the neighbourhood and those travelling from further afield. However, we are not convinced the water element could be a part of the interior spaces, and find that the design does not effectively consider the sides and rear of the project. Also, the library and its entrance could have a larger space.”

Omar Ibrahim, Mohamed Abdelaziz, Mahmoud Amgad and Ahmed Zaki; 6th of October, Egypt
“The design has reviewed and informed its design approach by the context and local identity. The response is well thought-through and the clarity of plan and wayfinding is admirable. The historical references in the project are very exciting in their capacity to inspire both programme and architecture. However, there is a lack of clarity in the presentation of the project, as the floor plans are confused in their relation to ground level. The project, while being inward-looking, could easily look to its surroundings instead. Vertical circulation could also be improved.”

Mostafa Elghazawy, Mohamed Elsarif and Ahmad Hila; Giza, Egypt
“With this design, the architects show a careful and precise attitude. The design bears witness to stylistic refinement and forms a convincing answer to the given task from a functional, cultural and architectural point of view. However, we would have welcomed more consideration to the arrival experience and its connection to the local neighbourhood. We are intrigued by the space, and can see that a permanent or contemporary collection would suit it; although, we are less sure how the interactive element is embedded within it.”

Tay Othman; San Francisco, United States
“The architects have created a landmark with an interesting design approach that is well-expressed. The exterior views give the possibility of something quite exciting and unique, with an individual and contemporary response to Arab vernacular for the 21st century. The simplicity of the cube and understanding of a museum as a canvas is welcomed; however, the approach is light and the presentation does not clearly show the wayfinding. Perhaps labelling would have brought some clarity to the presentation. This proposal would have also benefited from showing how art would have been displayed.”

The Rifat Chadirji Prize is named after the prolific Iraqi architect Dr Rifat Chadirji, and is a thematic international prize that seeks designs responding to local challenges. The prize, which is part of Tamayouz’s programme of championing and celebrating architecture in the Near East and North Africa, aims to introduce local challenges to the world and invite architects, designers and planners to submit their concepts. It also aims to establish an uncompromising open source of ideas that tackle social issues through design.

For its inaugural cycle in 2017, the prize sought solutions for Mosul’s housing crisis, and in 2018, it called on participants to supply designs schemes to transform Baghdad’s old governorate buildings in Baghdad Design Centre. Information about previous winners can be found here.

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

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