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Bangladeshi Architect Marina Tabassum Has Been Awarded Soane Medal For Her “Architecture Of Significance”

Marina Tabassum, a Bangladeshi architect, has been awarded the Soane Medal for her “Architecture Of Significance” in 2021. According to The Guardian, she is the first architect from the global south to get the prestigious accolade.

Tabassum, the founder and lead architect of Marina Tabassum Architects (MTA), is noted for her sustainable architecture that attempts to better the lives of Bangladesh’s ultra-low-income population. She was born and raised in Bangladesh. The Bait Ur Rouf Mosque, which incorporated perforated brickwork to allow sunlight and air into the prayer hall and awarded Tabassum the “Aga Khan Award” for Architecture in 2016, is one of her most well-known works. She refers to her human-centered, sustainable work as “the architecture of relevance.”

Tabassum was named the winner of this year’s Soane Medal by a panel of leading architects and critics, which honors practitioners who advance knowledge of the relevance of architecture in people’s lives.

Tabassum “consistently demonstrates the ways in which architecture can improve lives, and her work with Rohingya refugees at Cox’s Bazar showcases the potential of architects to contribute to solving the problems society faces today,” said jury chair and Sir John Soane’s Museum director Bruce Boucher. “From her Bait ur Rouf Mosque to Dhaka’s Independence Monument, Tabassum has created buildings which bring communities together and foster a distinct sense of place,” Boucher said. “Her research into dwelling in the Ganges Delta and Bengali courtyards suggest alternative models of building, habitation and ownership which have the potential to inform architectural practice more widely,” he added.

Tabassum’s work is motivated by a commitment to sustainability, and she is truly driving the discourse about how architecture, people, and the environment interact. Marina appeared in a live digital event at the Museum and delivered the fourth Soane Medal speech upon receiving the honor, according to Artdaily.

“I am honoured to have been chosen to receive this recognition from such a distinguished institution as the Soane Museum,” Tabassum said.” “Winning the Soane Medal means a great deal to me,” she added. “My current work is focused on the twin crises of Bangladesh: the plight of refugees and the heightened threat to our population of flooding, exacerbated by global warming. Both factors have led me to focus on low prototyping impact, mobile housing which can be delivered at the lowest cost possible for those in need.” 

“Compared to the previous winners, Rafael Moneo, Dennis Scott Brown, and Kenneth Frampton, I am very much a work in progress,” she said about her latest accolade.

Tabassum’s current initiatives include working in Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar and constructing low-cost Khudi Bari (“Tiny House”) mobile and modular home kits for flood-affected communities in the Ganges delta.

On Tuesday, November 16th, she received the Soane Medal in a ceremony in London. The prize, which was established in 2017 by Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, honors architects, educators, and critics whose work has advanced and improved public understanding of architecture.

Boucher, architect David Chipperfield, architecture critic Paul Goldberger, architecture writer and curator Owen Hopkins, architect Farshid Moussavi, architect Eric Parry, design critic and author Alice Rawsthorn, architecture critic Oliver Wainwright, and architectural historian Thomas Weaver were all on the jury for the year 2021.

The Soane Award winner receives a replica of Sir John Soane’s original gold medal, which was handed to him by the “Architects of England” in 1835.

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