Dewan Award for Architecture 2021

A Girls Sanctuary

Tamayouz Excellence Award invites architects and designers to submit their ideas for a safe and comfortable space for homeless girls that supports their health, educational and psychosocial needs and helps them to achieve their own potential.


Al-Mada’in was an ancient metropolis on the Tigris River between the ancient royal centres of Ctesiphon and Seleucia, and later the Abbasid capital of Baghdad. The name ‘Al-Mada’in’ means ‘The Cities’.
Al-Mada’in was founded during the Sasanian era, and was used as a synonym for Ctesiphon by the Arabs, and later the Muslims. Al-Mada’in has received considerable interest from archaeologists since the 18th century, who are drawn to the most famous landmark there: the Arch of Ctesiphon (Taq Kisra). 

Tigris River

Tigris River is the eastern waterway of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia (the other being the Euphrates). The river flows south from the mountains of the Armenian Highlands through the Syrian and Arabian deserts, and meets the Euphrates River in the Iraqi city of Basra, forming the Shatt Al-Arab.  The Tigris River is an important source of both travel and irrigation. 
The Tigris River also has a rich history that dates back to the earliest known civilizations, where several kingdoms were established on its banks because of its importance in a largely arid region.  Our competition site is on the bank of the Tigris. 

Our Competition Site

Location: 15,000m2 plot, situated in a green agricultural/rural area on the eastern bank of the Tigris river, offering the opportunity to raise the girls in a serene and healthy environment. 

  • The maximum water level during spring is -2m
  • The minimum water level during summer is -4m

Section and Levels

Historical Context

The modern history of Iraq tells a dejected story of endless humanitarian crises particularly after the 1990 UN sanctions, which were then followed by the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The war had grave consequences and negative impacts on the Iraqi community and economy. It created an environment of turmoil, lacking the very fundamentals of human rights and infrastructure. 

It is estimated that since 2003, there have been over 335 billion dollars in financial losses related to conflict in terms of weapon purchases, human casualty and disability. Human loss is even more grim: it is estimated that 151,000 to 1,033,000 lost their lives in the first three to four years of the war and the following instability. As a result, many children have grown up without parents, and in particular, their fathers due to the militarisation. 

In addition, the phenomenon of rural migration spiked as many families were driven away from their homes due to the deteriorating economic and political climate. They sought refuge and better opportunities elsewhere in the country, leading to a massive imbalance and rise in unemployment. Professional careers further turned into rural occupations, trades and crafts.
Recent statistics conducted by the Iraqi Ministry of Planning and Development reveal that “the number of orphaned Iraqi children has increased significantly in recent years and that there are some 500,000 living on the streets”.
Government statistics indicate that up to five million children live in difficult social conditions. And up to 25,000 children are leaving their homes either to go elsewhere in Iraq or abroad – per month.
Officials from Childhood Voices Association, a children’s non-governmental organisation, say that “there are 11,000 children addicted to drugs in Baghdad alone, that many girls aged 12 to 16 years old have been victims of abuse, and that many girls aged 12 years and above have endured harassment.”
The organisation also quotes international reports stressing that “more than 1 million Iraqi children have entered the labor market with the increase in the rate of poverty (one third of Iraq’s population live under the poverty line) and that they suffer violence and abuse.” According to its report, 1.3 million children aged 8 to 16 years old, equal to 6.1% of the population, have become workers.

Independent and government reports have confirmed an increase in the number of orphaned and abused children, as well as a rise in the number of those dropping out of school, 760,000 children were not able to resume primary school in 2008. 

The Challenge

A quarter of Iraq’s children live in poverty, and a third of all children in Iraq are unable to access their basic human rights. Child poverty is a persistent issue in Iraq, which limits the potential of a large percentage of Iraq’s youth, curbs educational attainment, generates poor health in the individuals, and prevents children from realising their basic rights.

There are many organisations dedicated to such matters; however, only a few of them are devoted to girls only. Girls are particularly at risk and suffer specifically from personal and societal stigmatisation in ways that boys do not. In the past it has been more difficult to find official support for girls shelters. For this reason, the idea of a girls sanctuary emerged. 

The sanctuary will be committed to the welfare of children throughout the whole of their childhood as a preventive measure in the fight against abandonment and social ostracism.
The sanctuary should aim to restore the balance in life for the abandoned, destitute, and spiritually and physically traumatised children, and help in establishing a new environment where awareness of such issues is spread. It should also inspire NGOs  to start taking control and contributing more to the community.


Participants are asked to design a sanctuary for homeless underage girls, as well as older female teens (4-18 yrs old).  
The sanctuary should provide security and a sense of community for the young girls, while presenting opportunities for them to stand out and contribute positively towards their community.
The environment of the sanctuary should not only be a shelter, but it should reflect the possibilities of the built environment for supporting health, psychological, educational and cultural needs while harnessing the power of art and creativity to encourage young girls to express themselves, and be brought back into the culture of the country in a way that is open, progressive and nourishing for them. The ancient river site might play a major role.


Participants are asked to conserve and build around the 21 palm trees on site.  A maximum of 3 palm trees can be relocated to somewhere else on site. 

Planting more palm trees is welcomed. 

Design Programme

The sanctuary will be an alternative family/home for homeless girls that supports their health, psychosocial, educational and cultural needs. The following are the suggested zones to be included in the project (other facilities the participants find necessary can be added to the programme):
1. Access:  The shelter should have two accesses: a public one that leads to administration and a private one that offers  residents direct access to their residences and communal areas.

2. Administration: The main lobby and information desk, offices, associated services, toilets, storage, etc. A parking for staff is required.

3. Residence: The girls’ homes: each to have one parent (an auntie) and six girls. Residents to be grouped according to age with a maximum 3-year difference. Each residence to have the full facilities. The typology of a residence can be decided by the participants (houses or apartments).

​4. Play space: Outdoor playground and a garden.

5. Development space: Study rooms, workshop spaces (for crafts) and a library. 
6. Activity spaces: TV room, sports hall, communal areas and a hobbies room. 

7. School: Elementary stage classes only (6 classes) and associated services, toilets, storage, etc.  

8. Dining Hall: Central kitchen and dining area for daily lunch and which can accommodate special occassions. 

The sanctuary doesn’t have to be a single building. It can be a group of smaller buildings, a village, neighbourhood, etc, as long as it provides privacy for every girl and can teach culturally relevant etiquette, such as respect toward neighbours and visitors, responsibility and cleanliness.

The waterfront of the site shows erosion due to the river stream. This eroded area could be considered as a part of the site, and participants can use it for any reclamation or off site structures

Sanctuary Components

The Girl
Girls of a similar age live together as sisters, and  these girls and their parent (auntie) build emotional  ties that last a lifetime.

The parent
Each girl has a caring parent who is a  professional caregiver. She lives together with the girls, guides their development and runs the  household independently.

The Home 
It is the family home, and it has its own unique  feeling, rhythm and routine. Under its roof,  girls enjoy a real sense of security and belonging. Girls grow and learn together,  sharing responsibilities and all the joys and  sorrows of daily life.

The community 
A supportive community environment  where girls enjoy a happy childhood  through the family and community facilities, like schooling, entertainment, workshops, etc.

Sanctuary Objectives
Family: The sanctuary offers a sense of belonging. Here, girls learn values, share responsibilities and form lifelong relationships. A family environment gives them a solid foundation on which to  build their lives.

Respect: Each girl’s voice is heard and taken seriously. Girls participate in making decisions that affect their lives and are guided to take a leading role in their own development. Each girl grows with respect and dignity as a cherished  member of her family and society.

Mental Health: Emotional wounds are healed and confidence is built. Girls learn to trust and believe in themselves and others. With this self-assurance, each girl can recognise and fulfill her potential.

Safety: Girls are protected from abuse, neglect and exploitation, and are kept safe during conflicts and war. Girls have shelter, food, healthcare and education. These are the basic requirements for the sound development of all girls.

Identity: Girls will need to be brought back into the culture of the country and region in a way that is open, progressive and nourishing for them. 

Architects, students, engineers and designers are invited to participate in this competition. 
Participation can be on an individual or team basis (maximum of 6 members per team).  We encourage the participation of multidisciplinary teams. 

June/2021 – Competition launch and early registration
20/Nov/2021 – Closing date for registrations and submissions
Dec/2021 – Shortlist Announcement
December/2021 – Announcement of results

(Date to be confirmed)  – Annual Tamayouz Excellence Award Ceremony
All Deadlines are 11:59 pm GMT (London)

Early Registration: $75 from June/2021 – 30/Sep/2021
Standard Registration: $100 from 01/Oct/2021 – 20/Nov/2021

1. This is an anonymous competition and the Unique Registration Number is the only means of identification
2. The official language of the award is English
3. The registration fee for this award is non-refundable
4. Contacting the jury is prohibited
5. As the award organiser, Tamayouz Excellence Award reserves the right to modify the award schedule if deemed necessary
6. Entries will not be reviewed if rules or submission requirements are not followed
7. Participation assumes acceptance of the regulations.


RELEVANCE – A clear declaration of conditions that set the urban and cultural contextual parameters of the project through identification of local challenges and potential opportunities, living culture and the daily use of the sanctuary.

RESPONSE – Aspirational transformative and original ideas with a programmatic response to existing local urban, environmental and social conditions and challenges.  Clarity of the design process. 

RESOLUTION – A clearly declared Spatial and technical justification, Accessibility, safety, security and durability and environmental impact. 

Submission Requirements

Participants required to submit the following (In one Zip file named after the unique registration number):
1 – One – A0 board in JPEG format. Every team is encouraged to submit all the information they consider necessary to explain their proposal. Content may include but is not limited to plans, sections, elevations, visualisations and diagrams.  The resolution of the boards must be 300dpi with the unique registration number placed in the upper left corner of the board in 18 pt font.

2 – A word document file containing the project statement (250 Words Max) explaining the design proposal.

3 – Submit your entry by using the upload link in your registration confirmation email.
NOTE: All files must be named after the unique registration number 

1 X A0 JPEG - 300 dpi

1 X Word DOC (250) Words

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