Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil, the 2009 recipient of The Richard H. Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture, will lecture on his life’s work on Monday, September 14th at 4:30 p.m. at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture, 104 Bond Hall. 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 illustrated the variety and cultural fluency of classical architecture. “Classical architecture is the best that a tradition produces,” says Michael Lykoudis, Francis and Kathleen Rooney Dean of the School of Architecture. “Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil has reawakened an awareness of the value of traditional Islamic heritage, which in turn reflects the reach of tradition from every civilized continent.”
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 only contemporary structures on campus devoid of concrete and steel. El-Wakil is currently 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 Richard H. 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.