Driehaus Prize laureate to present Sept. 14 lecture

by Kara Kelly

Driehaus prize

Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil, the 2009 recipient of the Richard H. Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture, will lecture on his life’s work Sept. 14 (Monday) at 4:30 p.m. in Room 104 of Bond Hall at the University of Notre Dame.

Considered the foremost authority on Islamic architecture, El-Wakil has designed mosques, palaces, government buildings and houses, mostly in the Middle East. Selecting an Egyptian architect whose work reflects a non-Western tradition to receive the Driehaus Prize illustrates the variety and cultural fluency of classical architecture, according to Michael Lykoudis, Francis and Kathleen Rooney Dean of the Notre Dame School of Architecture, which administers the annual prize.

“Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil’s work respects traditional Islamic heritage and reflects the influence of classical architecture across times and cultures,” Lykoudis said.

El-Wakil’s work — which includes the Halawa House in Agamy, Egypt, for which he won his first Aga Khan Award for Architecture; the residence of Ahmed Sulaiman in Jeddah; and the Quba Mosque in Medina — celebrates the principles of Islamic architecture and culture while reflecting the regional character and locality in which each structure resides. He works with traditional design principles that use indigenous materials and processes, and integrates them with contemporary technology to create familiar, functional and environmentally sustainable structures that are both timeless and for our time.

The prominent King Saud Mosque in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, exemplifies El-Wakil’s traditional craftsmanship. Without use of concrete, El-Wakil created a magnificent indigenous brick dome with a diameter of 20 meters and a peak height of 40 meters. In 1985, at the request of the prince of Wales, El-Wakil designed the Oxford University Centre for Islamic Studies. Integrating Islamic design concepts with traditional Oxford architecture was central to the project. The resulting complex is one of the few contemporary structures on campus devoid of concrete and steel. El-Wakil currently is working on three projects in Beirut, Lebanon, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as a master planning project in Qatar that integrates the best in contemporary low-energy planning with climate-tempered Islamic built forms.

El-Wakil was awarded the School of Architecture’s seventh annual Driehaus Prize on March 28 at the John B. Murphy Memorial Auditorium in Chicago. The $200,000 annual award is endowed by Richard H. Driehaus, the founder and chairman of Driehaus Capital Management in Chicago, to honor an outstanding architect whose work applies the principles of classicism, including sensitivity to the historic continuum, the fostering of community, and consideration of the impact to the built and natural environment.