The 2009 winner of the Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture is Egyptian-born Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil. A two-time winner of the Aga Khan Award (in 1980 and 1989), the choice seems a surprising one for the $200,000 prize, often perceived as a more tradition-minded alternative to the Pritzker Prize. Administered by the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture and funded by Chicago financier and philanthropist Richard Driehaus, its previous winners have been practitioners in the Western tradition, including Leon Krier, Allan Greenberg, and the New Urbanist duo of Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. Most of El-Wakil's work has been in the Middle East. Early in his career he worked with the legendary Hassan Fathy for five years. During the 1970s and '80s, he completed more than 15 mosques in Saudi Arabia using traditional masonry construction techniques. From 1991 to 2001, El-Wakil maintained an office in Miami, where he taught at the University of Miami. Since 2001, the architect has divided his time among various Middle Eastern capitals. His heavy stucco walled courtyard buildings stand in stark contrast to the contemporary works of Western stars who are remaking the region's built environment with modern glass high rise structures.
Quba Mosque, Medina, Saudi Arabia
Credit: The University of Notre Dame School of Architecture
Jeddah Lighthouse, Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia
Credit: Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction