Prominent Middle-Eastern architect Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil has been named the recipient of the 2009 Richard H. Driehaus Prize. The prize, awarded to an individual whose work exemplifies the principles of traditional and classical architecture and urbanism, is awarded annually through the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture. The prize consists of a bronze and stone replica of the Choregic monument of Lysikrates in Athens and an unrestricted cash prize of $200,000.
Born in Cairo, Egypt in 1943, El-Wakil studied architecture and served as an instructor and lecturer at Ain-Shams University in Cairo until 1970. While working on his thesis, he served as an apprentice under Hassan Fathy, one of the few proponents of traditional building methods at the time. During his time as an apprentice, he decided to focus on an architecture based on the indigenous materials of the Middle East.
During the past four decades, El-Wakil has designed and built numerous public and private structures. He is best known for his residences and a series of mosques for which he has received numerous international awards. His Halawa House, a courtyard residence in Agamy, Egypt, earned him his first Aga Khan Award in 1980. In the late 1980’s, he designed a group of mosques for the Saudi Arabian cities of Jeddah and Medina, including the great Quba’ Mosque, located on the site of the first mosque of Islam. In 1989, he was awarded a second Aga Khan Award for his Corniche Mosque in Jeddah.
El-Wakil is the eighth recipient of the Driehaus Prize and the first from the Middle East. Past recipients include Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberg (2008), Jaquelin T. Robertson (2007), Allan Greenberg (2006), Quinlan Terry (2005), Demetri Porphyrios (2004), and Leon Krier (2003). El-Wakil was selected by a jury comprised of Richard H. Driehaus (Founder and Chairman of Driehaus Capital Management), Michael Lykoudis (Dean of the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture), Paul Goldberger (Architecture Critic for “The New Yorker”), David M. Schwarz (Principal of David M. Schwarz Architects), Adele Chatfield-Taylor (President of the American Academy in Rome), Robert Davis (Partner at Arcadia Land Company and co-Founder of Seaside, Florida), and Leon Krier (architect, scholar and 2003 Driehaus Prize winner).