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Chairman's Award

The Chairman's Award was established to honour special achievements.

Hassan Fathy at work in his studio, 1980.Lifetime Achievements of Hassan Fathy
The first Chairman's Award was given in 1980 to Hassan Fathy, an Egyptian architect, artist and poet in acknowledgement of his lifelong commitment to architecture in the Muslim world. Early in his career he began to study the pre-industrial building systems of Egypt to understand their aesthetic qualities, to learn what they had to teach about climate control and economical construction techniques and to find ways to put them to contemporary use.

Fuad Riad House, 1967, Shabramant, Egypt.Two such systems dominated his thinking: the climatically efficient houses of Mamluk and Ottoman Cairo, ingeniously shaded and ventilated by means of their two-storey halls, mashrabiyyas and courtyards; and the indigenous mud brick construction still to be found in rural areas. The latter consists of inclined arches and vaults, built without shuttering, domes on squinches built over square rooms in a continuing spiral, semi-domed alcoves and other related forms. The urban housing forms of Cairo could not serve Fathy directly as a replicable source because of the disappearance of the building traditions that created them. These fine old houses enriched his imagination, however, and were to become models for later large-scale work. The ancient mud brick forms, in contrast, were still being produced by rural masons unchanged. Stimulated by what he had learned, Fathy had what was then a revolutionary idea. He perceived that a connection could be made between the continuing viability of mud brick construction and the desperate need of Egypt's poor to be taught once again to build shelter for themselves.

Study for the Hamdi Seif Al-Nasr House, 1944, Fayum, Egypt; gouache on paper.In his lifetime he designed more than thirty projects including several villages for the poor. Experimental and unorthodox as his ideas were, more than two-thirds of his projects were either partially or completely realised. Still in use, and well cared for, are a series of modest private residences shaped by his profound understanding of vernacular design.

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