Recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1992.
The stone building system developed by the three Muhanna brothers - two architects and one engineer - offers a new, challenging approach to construction in Syria. Their system is based on the belief that a variety of rural building types, including one- or two-floor level houses and schools, should be made of the regional basalt stone, found in abundance on farm land, rather than of reinforced concrete frame with cement block infill, as is now the custom. Since no imported steel is used in the Muhanna system, and the local basalt stone can be inexpensively gathered and sorted, the cost of construction can be greatly reduced. Four schools designed by the Muhannas in southern Syria were built for one-third less than the cost of typical contemporary construction. For these schools stone was gathered within a radius of 15 kilometres of the site, separated by size and roughly shaped as necessary by hand tools - the small stones being used for the vaults and the larger for foundations and walls. The vaults, essentially traditional stone arches reinvented with the help of computer technology, were erected by unskilled labour on demountable timber or metal shuttering. Each school is composed of classrooms and corridor segments spanned by five-metre-wide vaults. The jury found the stone building system as applied to the four schools "a strong design, a wise plan, and a rational product which can be applied to all other types of rural construction where stone is available."