The winners of the Marble Architectural Awards (MAA) competition were recently announced by the program's organizer, Internazionale Marmi e Macchine Carrara S.p.A (IMM Carrara). The awards highlighted architectural projects using stone completed in the Middle East and Northern Africa, demonstrating that stone use was not affected by recent complex political events in the Middle East. These works highlighted not only the high level of quality in architecture but also the "universal meaning," according to IMM Carrara.

The first prize for the external cladding category was awarded to SnNhetta Hamza Consortium for the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, built in Alexandria, Egypt, in 2001 using Schulman Grey granite, a local stone. To make a work that has such a long-standing tradition in that city, stone was chosen to embody historical continuity. Although the building has been finished for months, it has been a victim of the tensions that are upsetting the land on both sides of the Sinai and thus has not yet been inaugurated with a worthy ceremony.

In the interior design category, the first prize was awarded to Mario Botta, an architect who has completed marble projects all over the world with his universally acclaimed skills in the use of natural stone. Botta's prized work is the Cymbalista Synagogue and Jewish Heritage Centre, built in Tel Aviv in 1998. The materials used in the project include Peitra di Prun from Italy for external cladding, Pietra Dorata from Italy for the interior decorations and interior cladding and Absolute Granite from South Africa for the floors. The building has been known for quite some time, but its interiors are still to be fully appreciated in the play of materials and lights that give a special atmosphere to the synagogue.

The first prize for the urban landscape category was given to Mehrdad Iravanian for the Koran Gateway Landscaping of Shiraz, Iran, in 1995. The materials used in this imposing park are two types of Iranian limestone: Ciman limestone and Gandomak Fars limestone.

According to IMM Carrara, judges selected buildings not only for their aesthetic results, but also for their clear connections to local traditions. These projects also successfully embodied different symbolic values. Judges found that the projects, often created by architects who are very representative of their local cultures and designing traditions, often were made like monuments to create immortal celebratory works.

The panel of judges was chaired by Luigi Danesi, President of Internazionale Marmi e Macchine, and composed by Giancarlo Cacciatori on behalf of the National Architects Council (CAN); Giuliano Colombini, president of the Federation of the Architects Association of Tuscany; and Marco Casamonti, director of Area magazine.

The winning projects were displayed with technical information and pictures in the official MAA catalog presented during Carraromarmotec, the 23rd International Fair for Marble, Machinery and Services, which was held from May 29 to June 1 in Carrara, Italy. At a technical seminar on May 31, the winners were asked to describe the meaning of their works and the technical and designing problems they found and successfully solved.

SECTION 1 - External Facings

First place in the exteriors category of the Marble Architectural Awards went to SnNhetta Hamza Consortium for the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt.

Materials Used: Schulman Grey granite (Egypt)

SECTION II - Interior Design

Mario Botta Architect was awarded first place in the interiors category for The Cymbalista Synagogue and Jewish Heritage Centre in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Materials Used: Pietra di Prun (Italy) for external cladding; Pietra Dorata (Italy) for interior decorations; Absolute Black granite (South Africa) for the floors

SECTION III - Urban Landscape

In the urban landscape category, Mehrdad Iravanian was awarded first place for the Koran Gateway Landscaping in Shiraz, Iran.

Materials Used: Ciman limestone (Iran); Gandomak fars limestone (Iran)