28 November 2004 --
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) was selected as a winner of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA), one of the most prestigious architectural prizes a building project can win. This particular prize was especially pleasing to Ismail Serageldin who had personally chaired two previous AKAA juries (1983 and 1992) and had served on three steering committees in the early days of the AKAA and had helped set the course of the world-famous triennial prize. Furthermore, the BA prize came on the silver jubilee of the Award.
Serageldin argued that the uniqueness of the AKAA was to premiate buildings already built, evaluated for their performance in real life, not just on the basis of beautiful drawings. The uniqueness of the BA as an institution helped it being recognized, as had the enormous range of its activities and contributions in the two years since its inauguration. It is also notable that the BA had been the result of an international competition that had recognized the talents of a hitherto unknown group of young architects based in Norway, who had then teamed up with an outstanding Egyptian engineering office to create an exceptional landmark building.
While saluting the talents of the architects (Kjetil Thorsen, Craig Dykster and Cristoph Kapeller and their colleagues at Snohetta) and the engineers (Mamdouh Hamza and Associates) who had designed the building, Serageldin also lauded the quality of the execution by the contractors, and especially lauded the work of the Egyptian administrators who had supervised the implementation of the project, led by Dr. Mohsen Zahran and his colleague Hisham Abdel Mohsen. He also mentioned the young Egyptian architect, Ihab El Habbak, who had worked with Snohetta on the winning competition entry in 1989.