What do a Chinese children’s library, Iran’s largest pedestrian bridge and a mosque in Bangladesh have in common? At first glance, not much. But as of this week they’re three of this year’s Aga Khan Award for Architecture winners. Held only once every three years, the contest comes with a $1-million prize and recognizes buildings that address the needs of communities with a significant Muslim presence.

The three other 2016 winners are a rural Bangladeshi training center inspired by ancient ruins, a public space in Copenhagen designed in part by Bjarke Ingels Group and a “floating” university building in Lebanon. Scroll on to see saw jaw-dropping photos of all six architectural marvels.

Issam Fares Institute, Lebanon

When Zaha Hadid Architects designed the Issam Fares Institute for the University of Beirut, it had a tall order: create a structure fit for a modern think tank while preserving the existing landscape. To accomplish that, the firm created a building whose footprint is significantly reduced by a “floating” section that holds a reading room, conference room and research spaces — hanging above the courtyard, it leaves plenty of space for nearby greenery.

aga khan issam fares 1 Photo: Aga Khan Development Network

aga khan issam fares 2 Photo: Aga Khan Development Network

Bait Ur Rouf Mosque, Bangladesh

Made from bricks using traditional methods, this mosque sits on land donated by a woman after her husband passed away. Originally a temporary structure was built, but later the woman’s architect granddaughter raised enough money to put together a permanent building. Now complete, the mosque is perfectly square and rests on a high plinth; its main feature is a beautiful column-free prayer hall.

aga khan mosque 1 Photo: Aga Khan Development Network

aga khan mosque 2 Photo: Aga Khan Development Network

aga khan mosque 3 Photo: Aga Khan Development Network

Friendship Center, Bangladesh

It may look like a labyrinth, but the Friendship Center in Bangladesh actually serves a much more ordinary purpose — it’s a training center for a NGO that works with people living in nearby riverine islands. Its unusual design was inspired by the ancient ruins at Mahasthangahr, but it’s definitely got a few modern touches. For one thing, it’s surrounded by an embankment that provides protection from flooding.

aga khan friendship center 1 Photo: Aga Khan Development Network

aga khan friendship center 2 Photo: Aga Khan Development Network

Hutong Children’s Library and Art Center, China

Talk about a before and after — not long ago, this 300- to 400-year-old courtyard was home to small residences built in the 1950s. Characterized by informal add-on structures built to accommodate growing families, most of the homes were wiped out in recent years. To recognize their historical importance, designer ZAO/standardarchitecture incorporated the remaining buildings into the Hutong Children’s Library and Art Center — the resulting complex includes a six-square-meter miniature art space that used to be a kitchen.

aga khan hutong 1 Photo: Aga Khan Development Network

aga khan hutong 2 Photo: Aga Khan Development Network

aga khan hutong 3 Photo: Aga Khan Development Network

Tabiat Pedestrian Bridge, Iran

The Tabiat Pedestrian Bridge may be Iran’s largest pedestrian bridge, but beyond that it’s become a popular public space for people to gather, walk and interact. Built across a highway in Northern Tehran, the bridge connects two parks and has three different levels, allowing those traversing it to get different views of the Alborz Mountains and surrounding area. Our favorite feature? The bridge’s colorful nighttime lighting.

aga khan bridge 1 Photo: Aga Khan Development Network

aga khan bridge 2 Photo: Aga Khan Development Network

aga khan bridge 3 Photo: Aga Khan Development Network

Superkilen, Denmark

Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, Superkilen was made to showcase the diversity of present-day Copenhagen. The 750-meter-long complex includes objects that represent over 60 nationalities, and is made up of three main zones: a green park, a red square for sports and a black food market and picnic area. Pictured below are a Kazakhstan-style bus stop and a striped dance pavilion inspired by US city St. Louis.

aga khan superkilen 1 Photo: Aga Khan Development Network

aga khan superkilen 2 Photo: Aga Khan Development Network

aga khan superkilen 3 Photo: Aga Khan Development Network

Developments featured in this article

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