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Aga Khan Award for Architecture

Islamic Architecture Speeches by Mowlana Hazar Imam

Mowlana Hazar Imam has been incessantly working towards the definition and implementation of Islamic architecture for buildings and land used by Muslims since he succeeded to the throne of Imamat on July 11, 1957.

In 1976, he established the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

"In establishing the Award, I was attempting not only to bring about the survival of the Islamic heritage in building forms, my objective was to stimulate in the architectural profession a new thought process which would seek to grow from the roots of our own culture, and develop a momentum of its own and become an almost instructive manner of expression."

On these pages, I have gathered a few excerpts which are then linked to the actual speeches and I must say that I am having a tough time in collecting them and making them ready and presentable for my web site. Just think how much wisdom and toil would have gone into actually working that vision, attending all the seminars and presenting those speeches and trying to bring that vision to fruition... Mashallah!

Burnaby Ismaili Center, Canada It has been 24 years since he seriously went to work in trying to restore our Islamic inheritance of the years gone by, when Muslim architecture and culture was at its peak and the rest of the world was learning from our architects and artisans in building the environment around them. Our scientists and philosophers had a clear definition in their minds of what the built environment should be around them - not in competition with its environment, acutely aware of the building's effect upon its residents/users, by using materials that were indigent to that area and also not to impress anyone by its dimensions (therefore, no glass and concrete high-rises!). On the other hand, they were built to remind one of Allah's remembrance at all times and the public places were created to remind one of the tranquility and serenity of life in heaven and that is why the use of water and fountains and cool greenery was ever-present in classic Islamic architecture.

Mowlana Hazar Imam realized that fast growth in the Muslim countries from the boom in oil revenues, etc. was resulting in rushed growth of those cities who imported architects, materials and workers to build for those nations' buildings, road systems and developing whole communities and were creating all the horrors of urban living and the stress that goes with it.

In just a very short period of time, Mowlana Hazar Imam has managed to create a great turnaround in the thinking of professional architectural circles who are beginning to realize how important it is to build with the client's lifestyle in mind as well as to think carefully about the impact on the land and community and incorporating the planning for the future growth and use of that space. With his Aga Khan Award for Architecture and liaisons with the foremost universities of the United States, Harvard and MIT, he is making a difference. In the next generation, when 50% of the population will be Muslim, and the built environment will provide that balance with nature and man, din wa duniya (religion & life), you can give testimony that it started by the foresight of a Noble Descendent of our beloved Prophet Muhammad. (s.a.s.) Please judge for yourself by browsing through these engaging speeches and interviews.

Also, please pardon me if I am not able to present all the required speeches online at once. I'd like to call this a work-in-progress and I ask your help to please provide me with speeches missing here, if you know about them.

Ismaili Centre London September 1979 - This building and the prominence of the place it has been given indicate the seriousness and the respect the West is beginning to accord Muslim civilization of which the Ismaili Community, though relatively small, is fully representative.

Asia Society New York, September 1979 - As we work towards that vision of the future we will remember the Surah of Light from the Quran. It tells us that the oil of the blessed olive tree lights the lamp of understanding, a light that belongs neither to the East nor West. We are to give this light to all. In that spirit, all that we learn will belong to the world and that too is part of the vision I share with you.

Fez, Morocco, October 1979 - We are living through a time of passive disabling and must now seek to reverse that trend.

New York, April 1980 - In Islam, where the faith demands disciplined integration and unity of all aspects of daily life, the potential and responsibility of the architect is especially significant.

Amman, Jordan, May 1980 Opening remarks - Whatever efforts the Award may make to provide a new direction and sense of purpose to the future environment of the Islamic world, it cannot achieve substantial or long-term results unless the governments and people identify and implement the changes they desire.

Amman, Jordan, May 1980 Closing remarks - The Islamic countries have their own schools of architecture, complete with men of talent and creativity. It is much more important that the Aga Khan Award encourage the strengthening of these schools and the support of their graduates, particularly the younger architects who in a sense control the destiny of the Islamic architectural world of the future. This is an issue of primary concern to me, and one which has been raised many times.

Mowlana Hazar Imam Interviewed by Mildred Schmertz, August 1998 At the beginning some observers thought that at best, your architectural award program would last about six years. Instead, in two decades it has become and remained the most outstanding in the world, and continues to hold that leadership. What were the goals that led you to establish the Award?
Mowlana Hazar Imam's Vision for the Future of Islamic Architecture
The Aga Khan Award for Architecture Site
Mowlana Hazar Imam's Speech at the Seerat Conference
Speech given at University of Peshawar
Aga Khan University Page
His Highness the Aga Khan in Cairo

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