Groundbreaking Bangladeshi architect and 2021 Soane Medalist Marina Tabassum has garnered another important accolade after being named the Millennium Lifetime Achievement Award winner at the upcoming Lisbon Architecture Triennale, which kicks off in the Portuguese capital on September 22nd.
The MTA founder is known for her contributions to environmental design and an approach to architecture that breaks from commercialism in order to remain in touch with local communities and the needs of everyday people. As Tabassum explained during her Soane Medal speech: “The icon-mania of the super-rich and stardom of architects brought about a crisis. It is a point of crisis when an architect must decide whether to indulge in easy excitement or to choose a path of resistance.”
With her acceptance, she joins a list of past recipients that includes Kenneth Frampton, Álvaro Siza, and last cycle’s winner Denise Scott Brown. A jury statement mentioned that her work “demonstrates a deep sense of commitment to the social and cultural role of architecture, with particular attention paid to building a collective sense of belonging in each new project.”
Projects realized through URBANA and later her own eponymous firm have helped the architect cultivate a reputation for climate-sensitive designs built around the philosophy of impermanence. Tabassum’s work was also honored with the 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture and by the American Academy of Arts and Letters Awards last year. She has taught previously at the Harvard GSD and the University of Texas at Austin. Currently, Tabassum serves as the academic director of the Bengal Institute for Architecture, Landscapes and Settlements.
“Marina Tabassum’s unique practice touches on the spiritual fundamentals of architecture, without losing sight of its responsibilities and potential impact,” the jury commented. “Her projects demonstrate both a strong, clear ethical position and delicate, sophisticated design, being uncompromisingly innovative even with limited resources and budget constraints. Always driven by specific cultural and geographical contexts, her work addresses pressing contemporary issues, being particularly mindful of local communities and their environment and history. Marina Tabassum's bold step forward, transforming architecture’s role from a passive-commission model into an active-initiative one, keeps showing us the way towards how architects can challenge the climate crisis and bring about social change in an experimental, respectful and inspiring manner.”
Tabassum will be on hand to accept the award (designed by sculptor Carlos Nogueira) at a special ceremony in Lisbon on September 30th.
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