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  Straits Times 5 Sep 07
S'pore condo wins major award for architecture
1 Moulmein Rise honoured for its tropic-friendly high-rise design
By Tay Suan Chiang

ARCHITECTS Wong Mun Summ and Richard Hassell have reason to shout Woha. Their homegrown firm, Woha Architects, received the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture yesterday in Kuala Lumpur for its residential project 1 Moulmein Rise.

This is the first winning project from Singapore. The award was established by the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, in 1977.

Attention is given to buildings that use local resources and technology in an innovative way and to projects likely to inspire similar efforts elsewhere.

The 28-storey 1 Moulmein Rise for property firm UOL Development, which was completed in 2003, boasts solutions to deal with high-rise living in the tropics.

One example is the use of monsoon windows, which are special horizontal windows in each apartment to let in the breeze but keep out the rain. Other tropic-friendly features include designing the condominium to have a north-south facing (to avoid direct sunlight) and overhangs to provide shade.

Of the win, which is 13-year-old Woha's top international award to date, Mr Wong said it is meaningful because 'it looks at what the building does for the end-user, rather than just on how the building looks'.

UOL chief operating officer Liam Wee Sin said the award is international recognition for the company's commitment to design excellence in the homes it builds.

The award has a triennial prize fund of US$500,000 (S$760,000), making it the largest architectural prize. The prize money is split among the nine winners this year.

This is not the first time a homegrown company has won such recognition though. In 2001, Singapore-based architect Kerry Hill won the award for designing The Datai resort in Langkawi.

The awards are handed out every three years. This year, 343 projects were presented for consideration and 27 were reviewed on site by international experts.

The award is governed by a steering committee chaired by the Aga Khan. Members include German architect Omar Akbar, Swiss architect Jacques Herzog and American art historian Glenn Lowry. The steering committee selects the master jury for each award cycle.

This year's nine winners include the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Ethiopia, a school in Rudrapur, Bangladesh and the University of Technology Petronas in Malaysia.

The award ceremonies have been held in settings selected for their architectural and cultural importance to the Muslim world, such as Istanbul's Topkapi Place in 1983 and the Alhambra in Granada, Spain in 1998.

This year's ceremony was held in Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Twin Towers, a 2004 award-winner. The awards were handed out by Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and the Aga Khan.

Of Woha's winning design, Ms Brigitte Shim, an architecture professor from the University of Toronto and a master jury member, said: 'Woha's way of handling the residential units and the site is sophisticated and elegant.'

Asked how they will celebrate, Mr Wong said: 'By working harder.' Mr Hassell said they do not know exactly how much of the prize money they will get but it will be used to fund research or set up a research grant.

Related articles on Singapore: green buildings
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