Page 1



INTERNATIONAL IDEALIST A survey of the Aga Khan’s ambitious architectural construction and award programs is presented. TEXT George Baird

11 ON ARCHITECTURE Excerpts from the Aga Khan’s speeches and statements illuminate his vision of architecture’s significance.









20 TORONTO TRIO Set to open this fall, the Aga Khan Museum, Ismaili Centre and their park are stunning additions to Toronto’s cultural landscape. TEXT Elsa Lam

26 IN SEARCH OF EMPATHETIC ARCHITECTURE An architect recounts working with the Aga Khan as client. TEXT Bruno Freschi


Three architectural projects reveal deep links between the Aga Khan and Canada. TEXT Trevor Boddy

COVER The Aga Khan Museum in Toronto by Maki and Associates with Moriyama & Teshima Architects. Photograph by Tom Arban.


02-03_Contents.indd 3

14-05-09 6:10 PM


Editor Elsa lam, mRaIC AssociAtE Editor lEslIE JEn, mRaIC EditoriAl Advisor Ian ChodIkoff, oaa, fRaIC contributing Editors annmaRIE adams, mRaIC douglas maClEod, nCaRb, mRaIC

akdn/faRhEz RayanI

RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


rEgionAl corrEspondEnts Halifax ChRIstInE maCy, oaa Regina bERnaRd flaman, saa MontReal davId thEodoRE CalgaRy davId a. down, aaa Winnipeg lIsa landRum, maa, aIa, mRaIC VanCouVeR adElE wEdER above His Highness the Aga Khan, recipient of the 2013 Royal Architectural institute of Canada Gold Medal, with 2010 Gold Medal recipient George Baird (left) and RAiC president paul Frank (right). opposite His Highness the Aga Khan in discussion with prince Sadruddin Aga Khan during a construction site visit at Aga Khan University.

His Highness the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims, does not look like a man who spends time on construction sites. But when it comes to architecture, the Aga Khan knows his stuff: he’s been a careful observer and patron of projects around the world since succeeding his grandfather as Imam in 1957, at the age of 20. Last November, the Aga Khan was awarded the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s highest honour: the RAIC Gold Medal. “In Islam, the role of an Imam is not limited to the domain of faith,” he said in his acceptance remarks. “It also includes a deep engagement in the world, in all of the wide and complex issues that affect our quality of life. Among those issues, not many have more impact than architecture and the buildings in which we spend, at all ages, so many days and nights of our lives.” This understanding led the young Imam to found the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a group of agencies whose work ranges from improving rural housing to training doctors. One branch—the Aga Khan Trust for Culture—includes a Historic Cities Programme that created Al-Azhar Park from a debris dump in Cairo, restored the Aleppo Citadel, and revitalized the gardens surrounding Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi. The Trust for Culture also runs the triennial Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA), a $1-million prize that recognizes architecture throughout the Muslim world, broadly defined. A painstaking selection process seeks to identify new standards of architectural excellence. At the largest scale, the prize has been given to a watershed remediation plan for the Wadi Hanifa in Riyadh. At the smallest, it has recognized an earth-and-bamboo school in Bangladesh. The Aga Khan has particular ties to Canada, to which many Ismailis immigrated following their forced expulsion from Uganda under Idi Amin in 1972. A decade later, the Aga Khan commissioned an Ismaili Centre in Vancouver. The design by Bruno Freschi pairs a prayer hall

publishEr tom aRkEll 416-510-6806 Account MAnAgEr faRIa ahmEd 416-510-6808 circulAtion MAnAgEr bEata olEChnowICz 416-442-5600 ext. 3543 custoMEr sErvicE

malkIt Chana 416-442-5600 ext. 3539 with community spaces. Another remarkable production building, the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat JEssICa Jubb grAphic dEsign in Ottawa, is a secular centre for nurturing relasuE wIllIamson tionships and enabling quiet diplomacy. Pritzker vicE prEsidEnt of cAnAdiAn publishing alEx PaPanou Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki and prEsidEnt of businEss inforMAtion group Toronto’s Moriyama & Teshima Architects bRuCE CREIghton collaborated on the Sussex Drive edifice, which hEAd officE 80 vallEybRook dRIvE, garnered a Governor General’s Award in 2012. toRonto, on m3b 2s9 The Aga Khan’s largest undertaking in telepHone 416-510-6845 faCsiMile 416-510-5140 Canada is nearing completion. A Toronto site e-Mail Web site includes an Ismaili Centre by Charles Correa, an Islamic art museum by Fumihiko Maki, Canadian architect is published monthly by bIg magazines lP, a div. of glacier bIg holdings Company ltd., a leading Canadian information and a public garden by Vladimir Djurovic. company with interests in daily and community newspapers and businessto-business information services. Plans are also underway to create a Global the editors have made every reasonable effort to provide accurate and Centre for Pluralism at the former War authoritative information, but they assume no liability for the accuracy or completeness of the text, or its fitness for any particular purpose. Museum in Ottawa (a partnership with the subscription Rates Canada: $54.95 plus applicable taxes for one year; $87.95 plus applicable taxes for two years (hst – #809751274Rt0001). Government of Canada), construct a park in Price per single copy: $6.95. students (prepaid with student Id, includes Burnaby, and develop an Islamic garden at the taxes): $34.97 for one year. usa: $105.95 us for one year. all other foreign: $125.95 us per year. single copy us and foreign: $10.00 us. Devonian Botanical Gardens near Edmonton. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Circulation Dept., Canadian Architect, 80 Valleybrook Dr, toronto, While the Aga Khan’s work comes from a on Canada M3B 2S9. faith perspective, it is fundamentally inclusive. postmaster: please forward forms 29B and 67B to 80 Valleybrook Dr, toronto, on Canada M3B 2S9. printed in Canada. All rights The Imamat takes responsibility for the wellreserved. the contents of this publication may not be reproduced either in part or in full without the consent of the copyright owner. being of Shia Ismaili Muslims, but also extends From time to time we make our subscription list available to select this care to the diverse communities around companies and organizations whose product or service may interest you. if you do not wish your contact information to be made the world in which Ismailis live. The AKDN available, please contact us via one of the following methods: agencies are non-denominational. “Our work telephone 1-800-668-2374 facsimile 416-442-2191 has always been people-driven,” the Aga Khan e-mail recently said in an address to the Parliament Mail Privacy officer, business Information group, 80 valleybrook dr, toronto, on Canada m3b 2s9 of Canada. “It grows out of the age-old Islamic MeMbeR of tHe Canadian business pRess ethic, committed to goals with universal relMeMbeR of tHe allianCe foR audited Media publiCations Mail agReeMent #40069240 evance: the elimination of poverty, access to issn 1923-3353 (online) issn 0008-2872 (pRint) education, and social peace in a pluralistic environment. The AKDN’s fundamental objectMember of ive is to improve the quality of human life.” Those goals are clear in the Aga Khan’s projects in developing countries, but also in his work in Canada—spaces that welcome diverse communities, that uplift the human spirit, that value the craft of architecture and the skills of their makers. At its heart, it’s a humanistic perspective that wE aCknowlEdgE thE fInanCIal suPPoRt of thE govERnmEnt of Canada thRough thE Canada PERIodICal goes to the roots of what architecture everyfund (CPf) foR ouR PublIshIng aCtIvItIEs. where can—and should—do. Inc.

elsa Lam

Association of Business Publishers 205 East 42nd Street New York, NY 10017

RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


inTernaTional idealisT For over 50 years, The aga Khan has been using archiTecTure To imProve The qualiTy oF liFe oF vulnerable PoPulaTions—and To uPhold human digniTy around The world. TexT

George Baird Gary Otte unless otherwise noted


above The Citadel of Aleppo in Syria, one of the Islamic world’s foremost monuments, was restored with assistance from the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme. below The Aga Khan University’s central campus in Karachi, Pakistan includes a medical college and teaching hospital.

above His Highness the Aga Khan tours Zanzibar Stone Town, Tanzania with local dignitaries. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture restored landmark buildings, upgraded housing and rehabilitated public spaces in the historic city centre. boTTom Zanzibar Stone Town Serena Inn is a luxury hotel run by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, the sole for-profit agency of the Aga Khan Development Network, which works to stimulate the private sectors of developing economies and reinvests its capital into sustainable development initiatives.

The selection of His Highness the Aga Khan as recipient of the RAIC’s highest honour—its Gold Medal—marks the first time in more than 30 years that a non-architect has been chosen. According to the citation, the award recognizes the extraordinary achievements of His Highness in the exemplary use of architecture “as an instrument to further peaceful and sustainable community development around the world.” In recognizing His Highness, the RAIC took note of his remarkable accomplishments

in various aspects of the field of architecture as part of his broader social and economic development work through the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). This includes the specialized cultural programming undertaken through the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the restoration of many heritage sites throughout the Muslim world by the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, and the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Some years back, Peter Rowe, the former Dean of the Harvard

RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


AKAA/AdoLf Bereuter

AKAA/MArc Lins above The Altach Islamic Cemetery, designed by Bernardo Bader Architects, received a 2013 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. The subdued setting serves the westernmost state of Austria, where over eight percent of the population is Muslim. boTTom The 2013 Aga Khan Award for Architecture also recognized the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery in Sudan, designed by Studio Tamassociati of Italy. The facility is organized around courtyards to maximize natural light and ventilation. Staff housing was created from the shipping containers used to transport materials to the site.

Graduate School of Design (GSD), invited me to join a committee tasked with preparing a prospectus for a new school of architecture at the Aga Khan University, an initiative of the AKDN. Since I had worked under Rowe’s deanship when I was a member of the GSD and held him in high regard, I happily accepted. In doing so, I found myself among a number of distinguished fellow architectural academics from around the world. As part of the work of the committee, we travelled not only to the administrative headquarters of the Trust for Culture in Geneva, but also to the sites of numerous projects of the Trust for Culture and the AKDN in Pakistan and in East Africa. It was due to the activities of Dean Rowe’s committee that I first began to appreciate the astonishing breadth and depth of the various organizations that make up the Aga Khan Development Network. I would start to describe some of them by referring first to the Aga Khan University in Karachi, which the committee visited. It is one of the most important tertiary academic institutions in Pakistan—most especially the medical college that forms part of it. Today, the Aga Khan University has 11 campuses spread across eight countries and three continents. At the time of our committee’s workings, the AKDN was exploring the possibility of establishing an entire new campus for the University, which would include a number of new academic programs, including,

perhaps, a new school of architecture. On our trip to East Africa (a possible location for the proposed new school of architecture) we stayed in two hotels of the AKDN-owned Serena chain, one in Stone Town, Zanzibar, and the other in Nairobi, Kenya. The Serena chain is indeed a business enterprise, but it also serves as an employment training and economic development organization, with all its profits reinvested in further development. In Stone Town, an ancient trading town, a number of important historical buildings—one of which houses the Serena Hotel itself—have been restored by the AKDN. In Nairobi, we were taken on a tour of development efforts being implemented by the AKDN in Kibera, one of the world’s largest informal settlements, housing over a million people. The AKDN’s work in Kibera included constructing a new grid of public facilities, such as communal showers and toilets, throughout the territory of the settlement. Our tour guide in Kibera was a proud Kenyan nurse who had been trained in one of the Development Network’s programs. Following the conclusion of the work of that committee, I also came to be aware of the extension of the architectural patronage of His Highness in Canada itself, with the commissioning of an Ismaili Centre in Vancouver (opened in 1985); the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa (opened in 2008); and a major cultural complex in Toronto including an Aga Khan Museum, Ismaili Centre, and a landscaped park,


RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


AKAA/siMÉon duchoud

AKAA/christoPher LittLe ToP, leFT To righT Two images of the Kampung Improvement project, which received an Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1980. The governmentassisted self-help program provided water, footpaths, health clinics, and other infrastructure along existing rights-of-way in a low-income settlement in Jakarta, Indonesia. righT, ToP To boTTom Two images show the Gando Primary School in Burkina Faso, awarded an Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004. The school is the result of one man— Diébédo Francis Kéré—who designed it, fundraised, and mobilized villagers for construction.


AKAA/christoPher LittLe

currently under development. In addition, His Highness is leading the rehabilitation of the former Canadian War Museum at 330 Sussex Drive in the nation’s capital to house the newly established Global Centre for Pluralism. Two of these remarkable projects, the Delegation and the Aga Khan Museum, are designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki of Japan, and the Ismaili Centre by the UIA Gold Medallist Charles Correa of India. All three of these projects have the Toronto firm of Moriyama & Teshima as Architect of Record. When Alex Rankin, our much beloved and recently deceased Chancellor of the RAIC College of Fellows, called to ask what I thought of the idea of nominating His Highness for the Gold Medal, I responded with enthusiasm. He asked if I would be willing to serve as the lead nominator, and I leapt at the chance. The nomination was made; the RAIC accepted it, and His Highness graciously indicated that he would be happy to accept the Medal. His Highness became the 49th Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims on July 11, 1957 at the age of 20, succeeding his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan. He founded and is Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, whose agencies work to improve the welfare and prospects of people in the developing world, particularly in Asia and Africa, without regard to faith, origin or gender. The underlying ethic of the AKDN is compassion for the vulnerable in society. His Highness has had a long connection to Canada—not least on account of his successful appeal to Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau to agree to admit some 10,000 Ismaili immigrants to Canada en bloc when they were facing expulsion from Uganda during the regime of Idi Amin. At the groundbreaking for the new Ismaili Centre in Toronto, Prime Minister Stephen Harper presented His Highness with honorary Canadian citizenship, and in doing so, remarked that he hoped that His Highness would henceforth “always feel at home in Canada.” To

RAIC Gold MedAl 2013



which His Highness replied that he had already “always felt at home in Canada.” Given this, it is perhaps not surprising that he also accepted an invitation from John Ralston Saul to deliver a La Fontaine-Baldwin Lecture in Toronto, and in doing so observed that “the world we seek is not a world where difference is erased, but where difference can be a powerful force for good, helping us to fashion a new sense of cooperation and coherence in our world, and to build together a better life for all.” The RAIC’s recognition focuses in particular on the creation of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1977. It is given every three years to projects that set new standards of excellence in architecture, urban and regional design, conservation and landscape architecture. The Award seeks to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of societies in which Muslims have a significant presence. When New York’s Museum of Modern Art presented an exhibition of 11 projects from around the world that emphasized social program and environmental performance, no fewer than three Aga Khan Architecture Award winners were included. In an earlier text published in Canadian Architect, I have stated my view that the Aga Khan Award ranks with the Pritzker Prize and the Mies van der Rohe Prize as one of the most prestigious architectural awards extant in the world today. Almost as notable is the Trust for Culture’s Historic Cities Programme, which has led to the urban regeneration and restoration of such varied sites as the Citadel of Aleppo in Syria, a historic garden in Kabul, Mughal monuments in Delhi, and the Darb al-Ahmar district in Cairo, which includes the award-winning new Al-Azhar Park. It is hard to imagine another such diverse or exemplary range of initiatives in “using architecture as an instrument to further peaceful and sustainable community development around the world” as those of the varied Aga Khan organizations. I am proud to have been the lead nominator of the Aga Khan as a recipient of the RAIC Gold Medal, and hope that the ongoing work of the various arms of the AKDN serve as inspiration to the highest values of the architectural profession in Canada and beyond.


RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


Above, top to bottom The Aga Khan funded the development of Al-Azhar Park, a 74-acre oasis in the centre of Cairo; the project extended to restoring housing, creating apprenticeships, and providing microfinance loans to stimulate the rehabilitation of the adjacent low-income neighbourhood without displacing residents.

George Baird is Emeritus Professor of Architecture and former Dean at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto, and founding principal of Baird Sampson Neuert Architects. He was the 2010 recipient of the RAIC Gold Medal, and the 2012 recipient of the Topaz Medallion, awarded jointly by the American Institute of Architects and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture.

on archItecture In thIs serIes of excerPts from sPeeches and statements, hIs hIghness the aga Khan dIscusses archItecture’s crItIcal ImPortance In creatIng a better world. Gary Otte unless otherwise noted



RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


RAIC Gold MedAl 2013

12 His Highness Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini Aga Khan (IV) is the 49th Imam of the Nizari Ismailis, a denomination within Shia Islam. As he conceives it, his role as an Imam extends beyond providing spiritual leadership: he is also deeply engaged with improving the material world. To this end, he founded the Aga Khan Development Network, which has grown to become one of the largest private development agencies in the world. Architecture, as His Highness discusses in the remarks below, is a force with tremendous potential to foster spiritual enjoyment and to improve the lives of those most in need. defining architecture I think it is right to begin by clarifying that my definition of architecture goes beyond a concern for buildings designed by architects. I see architecture as embracing practically all aspects of our entire built environment. People everywhere—independent of their particular background or educational level—almost instinctively understand the importance of place, and how the spaces of our lives are shaped and reshaped—for better or for worse. This universal sensitivity to changes in the built environment also helps explain the profound impact of architecture on the way we think about our lives. Few other forces, in my view, have such transformational potential. travels as a Young Imam Between 1957 and 1967, I travelled extensively, meeting with various communities in different parts of the world. I came into contact with visible forms of poverty that I had not known before. The first indicator of a community’s poverty, what you see, is the physical context in which they live. My interest in architecture was driven at that time by the question of what to do to improve the quality of life of the ultra-poor. Whereas in the consumer societies of the West you can build and then pull things down, in these ultra-poor societies you cannot afford to do that. What you have to do is to modify buildings or adjust them; therefore the flexibility of the plan that you put in place has to be conceived with a different view of time than it would be in other parts of the world. being on site I inherited projects that my grandfather had started, or that the communities had started. There were schools that were under construction, there was the Aga Khan Platinum Jubilee Hospital in Nairobi, and there were various other projects as well. I watched and I asked questions, because the Imamat was responsible for much of this building and the community would identify needs and put forward requests for a school or a medical centre. I obviously went to see what was actually happening. You learn about poverty by going to see the way people live and by talking to the ultra-poor. You do not learn it from books.

PrevIous toP His Highness the Aga Khan tours the construction site for Al-Azhar Park in Cairo, Egypt. PrevIous bottom, left to rIght A meeting with Russian delegates to review plans for restoring historic Samarkand in Uzbekistan; the steering committee meets during the first cycle of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. above, toP to bottom A site visit to the revitalized Stone Town in Zanzibar, Tanzania; a local craftsman demonstrates restoration techniques near Humayun’s Tomb, a historic site in Delhi conserved with assistance by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

landscape and land-use Planning Landscape design really came to me first as an interest in the appropriate use of land. It came first from the notion of land planning. It affected the size of a site that you negotiated with a government for a school or a housing estate. The ability to move out of buildings and the ability to move in a pleasant environment was seen very early on as a necessity in our housing estates. Then there was the question of taking that land and adapting it to the use of sick people who were ambulant for the first time or to children who were playing outdoors. first architectural Projects in canada The story goes back to 1972, when the then President of Uganda, Marshall Idi Amin, expelled all the Asians from Uganda. Most members of my community, the Ismailis, came to Canada, while a minority who had retained their British citizenship at Ugandan independence went to the United Kingdom. The leaders of the Ismaili communities in the UK and Canada

Christopher little

sAliNA KAssAm

The Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper examine a model of the Aga Khan Museum, Ismaili Centre and park, currently under construction on Wynford Drive in Toronto; a joint initiative of the Imamat and the Canadian government, the Global Centre for Pluralism will be headquartered at the former War Museum site on Sussex Drive in Ottawa; His Highness the Aga Khan and Prince Amyn Aga Khan visit the Wynford Drive construction site in Toronto.

clocKwIse from toP

consulted with one another and with me as to how to respond to this forced migration. There was unanimity that wherever we would settle, we would never become a demotivated marginalized minority and that we would, instead, demonstrate the will and the capacity to rebuild our future. We therefore decided to build new spaces for the gathering of our communities, and for the practice of our faith, in the countries that were welcoming us. These new buildings, which we decided to call Ismaili Centres, had to reflect our aspirations for the future, rather than the tragedy of our recent past. We saw them as structures where we could receive other communities and institutions in a dignified manner, and where we could demystify our faith—which was sometimes badly misunderstood. They would be symbols of new hope, replacing past pain.

It was against this background that we built the two first Ismaili Centres in the industrialized world, the first in London in 1985—and the second in Vancouver. In both cities, we built on the best sites we could find, and we engaged some of the most respected architects to join us. on cultural diversity Bruno Freschi, who designed the Ismaili Centre in Vancouver, had earlier designed a gurdwara, a Sikh place of worship. He reflected Canada’s practice of drawing strength from cultural diversity, as well as from universal inspirations such as faith and family, and the celebration of great events and great people. This combined embrace of both the particular and the universal has made Canada one of the most respected pluralist societies in today’s heavily fractured world.

RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


rAm rAhmAN

Christopher little

RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


We continue to build in Canada. Soon a second Ismaili Centre, now nearing completion in Toronto, will join the first one in Vancouver, making Canada the only country in the foreseeable future with two Ismaili Centres, one in the west and another in the east. For this work, we retained another great architect, Charles Correa, who was born into a Christian family that originally lived in Goa. He, too, has designed for many faiths, including Hindu and Christian. Islamicizing modernity One of the issues in the Islamic world is the relationship between an ability to create and what we see of that creation. Nature is one of the evidences for a Muslim of God’s creation. I am personally very sensitive to that. That is why, for example, in the Delegation building I gave Professor Maki the idea of rock crystal. Rock crystal is an extraordinary natural phenomenon. It plays with light, and in our world that is very important; it has a quasi-mystical component because, depending on the angle under which it is viewed, you see it differently. It has many facets both literally and figuratively that are fascinating. We did a survey to try to understand what the younger generations in Canada were thinking. They were talking about aspirations for the future; they were talking about integrating themselves with the environment in which they live, which is an environment of quality modern buildings. They were looking for modernity, but they were also looking for empathy with Islamic traditions. We have that empathy. Maki seemed to be the one to whom you could give a mandate and say, I am trying to bridge a number of different forces by building this modern building, and one of them is to take some of the value systems of the past, put them into this building, but not make it so esoteric that it overburdens you. It has to be inspirational and subtle.

launching the global centre for Pluralism My interest in launching the Global Centre for Pluralism reflected my sense that there was yet no institution dedicated to the question of diversity in our world, and that Canada’s national experience made it a natural home for this venture. In my own role as Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims over the past half-century, I have come to appreciate the importance of pluralism in ever-expanding ways. The Ismaili community, after all, is itself a global family, spanning many geographies, cultures, languages and ethnicities— and sharing its life with people of many faiths. In addition, much of my work over this time has dealt with highly diverse societies in the developing world, often suffering from poverty, violence and despair. In such circumstances, a commitment to pluralism comes as no accident. For pluralism, in essence, is a deliberate set of choices that a society must make if it is to avoid costly conflict and harness the power of its diversity in solving human problems. The world we seek is not a world where difference is erased, but where difference can be a powerful force for good, helping us to fashion a new sense of cooperation and coherence in our world, and to build together a better life for all. In just three years, Canada will mark its 150th anniversary, and the whole world will be ready to celebrate with you. Sharing Canada’s robust pluralistic history is a core mission of our Global Centre, and 2017 will be a major opportunity for doing so, operating from its headquarters in the former War Museum on Sussex Drive. Perhaps 2017 and the celebrations can be a catalyst with our neighbours to improve the entire riverfront area around that building. I happily recall the establishment of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat here in 2008 and the Prime Minister’s description that day of

Christopher little

Atop the 700-year-old Baltit Fort in Pakistan, His Highness the Aga Khan converses with Stefano Bianco, director of the Historic Cities Programme; His Highness the Aga Khan reviews plans for the Humayun’s Tomb renewal project; His Highness the Aga Khan in discussion with architect Fumihiko Maki. above The master jury for the 1980 Aga Khan Award for Architecture included Kenzo Tange and Giancarlo De Carlo. oPPosIte, clocKwIse from toP left

our collaborative efforts to make Canada “the headquarters of the global effort to foster peace, prosperity and equality through pluralism.”

society, it is part of design. Our interest is to generate new inspirations for modern architecture, and I think that is happening.

Islamic spaces, spiritual spaces I believe that the Islamic faith has played a particular role in the development of Islamic architectural expression. If you think of the history of landscape architecture and you relate that to references to heaven in the Koran, you find very strong statements about the value of the environment, the response to the senses, to scent, to noise, music or water. In a number of spaces in the Islamic world, which are not religious buildings, there is a heightened sense of spirituality. You do not treat these spaces as theological spaces, you treat them as spaces that aim to give you a sense of spiritual happiness or spiritual enjoyment. Many faiths have such forces that manifest themselves. You can enter a non-Muslim space that has a strong spiritual meaning and you will recognize it.

Imam and Patron of architecture The role of the Ismaili Imam is a spiritual one; his authority is that of religious interpretation. It is not a political role. I do not govern any land. At the same time, Islam believes fundamentally that the spiritual and material worlds are inextricably connected. Faith does not remove Muslims—or their Imams—from daily practical matters in family life, in business, in community affairs. Faith, rather, is a force that should deepen our concern for our worldly habitat, for embracing its challenges, and for improving the quality of human life. In Islam, the role of an Imam is not limited to the domain of faith. It also includes a deep engagement in the world, in all of the wide and complex issues that affect our quality of life. Among those issues, not many have more impact than architecture and the buildings in which we spend, at all ages, so many days and nights of our lives.

the aga Khan award Very early on there was consensus that the Aga Khan Award could not be just for “architectured” buildings, it had to be an award for quality buildings no matter what the process of their creation. We were looking at bringing those processes on board and enhancing them, rather than saying there is a divide between the professionally trained architect and the builder who comes out of a traditional society, who is a fantastic artist, but who may not have all the technical niceties of the modern architect. I think that the Award must evolve. Institutions that do not evolve tend to get marginalized. We do not want to be seen as an institution that draws its inspiration only from the past. The inspiration is part of

With excerpts from the address of his highness the Aga Khan to both houses of the parliament of Canada in the house of Commons Chamber (ottawa, February 27, 2014); remarks by his highness the Aga Khan at the presentation of the Gold medal by the royal Architectural institute of Canada (ottawa, November 27, 2013); the laFontaine Baldwin lecture by his highness the Aga Khan (toronto, october 15, 2010); an interview with his highness the Aga Khan by philip Jodidio, (london, march 6, 2007) published in Under the eaves of Architecture (prestel, 2007); and remarks by his highness the Aga Khan on the occasion of the signing of the funding agreement for the Global Centre for pluralism (ottawa, october 25, 2006).

RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


AmbAssAdor of excellence A legAcy of high-cAlibre ArchiTecTure links The AgA khAn To cAnAdA. TexT

Trevor Boddy Gary Otte unless otherwise noted


Convergence is a two-way process—from the Canadian Ismailis, many of whom arrived here under duress, but also from us native-born Canadians who have lived and worked with them as they flourished like no other community of new immigrants, ever. The story here is of a bridging friendship and mutual respect. Over the past 40 years, there has been a strong link between the Shia Ismaili Muslims led by His Highness the Aga Khan and this country, a true convergence of pluralist values and respect for the diversity of culture. This is perhaps the most important reason for the Aga Khan’s receipt of the RAIC Gold Medal. Canada has long been home to Muslim populations, and in some unlikely regions. A Paris-based fur-trading company imported workers from Lebanon to Northern Alberta in the late 19th century. Consequently, Edmonton’s 1938 Al-Rashid was the first purpose-built mosque in Canada—a wooden structure that found a permanent home at Fort Edmonton in 1991. Continuing this pioneering line, British Columbia came to host the second major Ismaili Centre in the West (after the Hugh Casson-designed Ismaili Centre near London’s Victoria and Albert Museum). This occurred with the opening of the Ismaili Centre in Vancouver, completed in 1985 by Arthur Erickson protégé Bruno Freschi. In my original review of the Ismaili Centre for Section A magazine, I had questioned the settling into the site of this major public building— an almost apologetic integration into the suburb of Burnaby on the outskirts of Vancouver. I recently had the honour of returning with its architect, who reminded me that the acceptance of a large Jamatkhana (place of prayer and congregation) in the middle of a suburban neighbourhood was by no means automatic in the 1980s, even in cosmopolitan Greater Vancouver. Like Freschi himself, the Ismaili Centre has aged gracefully. In the forecourt, now-mature cedars form dense cylindrically clipped “columns” that extend the roof height and spatial logic of the prayer hall, forming a verdant counterfoil to its volumes. Around the perimeter are lush

plantings and leafy sitting areas, a social zone for worshippers and community. They form a popular gathering hub after Friday prayers, but just as much so at the end of a sunny Tuesday afternoon. The prayer hall’s sumptuous detailing, especially the calligraphyinfused wall panels and window surrounds, seems just right. So does its structure: Freschi’s distillation of the spatial logic of the mosques he toured during his schematic design phase. Caught up in the Postmodern debates then raging about the uses of architectural history, the Ismaili Centre in Vancouver never got its due amongst architects when it opened, but will perhaps yet come to be appreciated as the fine chamber work it is. oPPosiTe At the Vancouver Ismaili Centre, designed by Bruno Freschi, deep window surrounds incorporate Islamic patterns and geometries. Above, ToP To boTTom A garden forecourt to the Vancouver Ismaili Centre serves as a social gathering place; cylindrical cedars act like exterior columns to frame the courtyard and provide a sense of enclosure.

RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


Karo avan-DaDaev

Designed by Vancouver architect Farouk Noormohamed, the Ismaili Centre in Dushanbe, Tajikistan is the first of its kind in Central Asia. The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat building in Ottawa, designed by Fumihiko Maki, is a secular facility that houses the Aga Khan Foundation Canada offices and enables quiet diplomacy. The plan is a double rectangle surrounding an interior atrium and an exterior courtyard. Above

boTTom lefT

In 2014, Canada will become the only country with two Ismaili Centres after the anticipated opening of Charles Correa’s Ismaili Centre in Toronto. If the Vancouver building is a chamber work, the one in Toronto aspires to symphonic status—it is much larger, with more glamour and embellishment. As a nominator for the Aga Khan Architecture Award and participant in its seminars and award ceremonies throughout the Islamic world over the past 25 years, I have seen this rare global network promoting architectural excellence in action. Other Canadians have also been directly involved in design work commissioned by His Highness and his agencies abroad. Vancouver-based Ismaili architect Farouk Noormohamed has worked on plans for two campuses of the Aga Khan

aKDn/Moez visraM

RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


University, crafted a fine arts centre for Mombasa, and designed or adapted Jamatkhanas for North Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. Noormohamed’s most significant work to date is the large Ismaili Centre in Dushanbe, in the Central Asian republic of Tajikistan, home to an important and long-established Ismaili community. The Dushanbe building joins constructions in London, Vancouver, Lisbon, Dubai and soon Toronto, as major ambassadorial buildings that are showpieces for both local worshippers and the general public. Noormohamed’s design draws deeply on the architectural traditions of the region, and is a product of much study and scholarship. The Dushanbe building continues a theme common to most buildings commissioned by His Highness, which strive to make contemporary sense of the possibilities of tradition.

Karo avan-DaDaev Above The Dushanbe Ismaili Centre uses regional construction materials and techniques, including an intricate facing pattern of clay bricks punctuated by turquoise glazed bricks. boTTom, lefT To righT A view of the main entrance to the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat building in Ottawa; the faceted interior atrium of the Delegation building was inspired by the translucent hues and multiple planes of rock crystal.

With part of the funding for the building provided by the Canadian Ismaili community, and its Vancouver-based designer alongside an honorary Canadian as patron, the Dushanbe building is further proof of the shared architectural trajectory that led to the Gold Medal. The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat building in Ottawa is a closing example of His Highness’s commitment to pluralism and a dialogue with Canada. Over the past 30 years, the Parliament Hill and Sussex Drive precinct has been home to a number of buildings that have failed in trying to create a Canadian architectural identity connected with local traditions. The gem-like simplicity and purity of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat’s architecture by Fumihiko Maki make it the standout creation in the area. Much of the building is devoted to a large hall,

serene and inspiring. When compared with the Vancouver and Dushanbe buildings, it demonstrates that His Highness’s architectural tastes spring from the same vital well of pluralism. This is the most “ambassadorial” of buildings, taking the notion of dialogue and diplomacy back to their origins—the gracious meeting of minds. Whether for client or architect, there can be no higher goal than this. Trevor Boddy is co-curator of Critical Juncture, a recent global gathering of architecture critics at London’s victoria and albert Museum. He curated the Gesamtkunstwerk exhibition on the work of the Bjarke ingels Group for vancouver developer Westbank, on display from March 22-May 19, 2014. a companion catalogue is available. For more information, please visit

RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


toronto trio A museum, ismAili centre, And islAmic-insPired PArk Are significAnt Additions to the city thAt Aim to fAcilitAte mutuAl understAnding And exchAnge between different communities And fAiths. The Ismaili Centre (Toronto), the Aga Khan Museum, and their Park Charles Correa (Ismaili Centre), Maki and Associates (Aga Khan Museum), Vladimir Djurovic (The Park), Moriyama & Teshima Architects (architects of record) text Elsa Lam Photos Tom Arban unless otherwise noted Projects


Gary otte

Moez VisraM/iMara Wynford driVe

While the Aga Khan’s development agencies often choose to work behind the scenes, their new Toronto projects are impossible to keep under wraps. Adjacent to the Don Valley Parkway’s Eglinton exit, two intriguing sculptural forms have been taking shape over the past four years. One, a stately glass pyramid, peaks just above its counterpart, an angular box punctuated by hexagonal skylights. The site, located northeast of downtown in the multicultural Don Mills neighbourhood, is a singular locus of international architectural star power for the city. Indian Modernist Charles Correa designed the crystal-like building, the Ismaili Centre. Pritzker Prize-winner Fumihiko Maki created its companion structure, the Aga Khan Museum. Between and around the two flows a park inspired by Islamic gardens by Beirutbased landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic. Local firm Moriyama & Teshima served the role of associate architect on the complex. The project is an initiative of the Aga Khan Development Network. Funding for the project ultimately derives from His Highness the Aga Khan and contributions from his followers, the community of some 100,000 Shia Ismaili Muslims in Canada and 15 million Ismaili Muslims worldwide. The project was initiated almost a decade ago, when the site for the Ismaili Centre was acquired. Shortly after, the adjacent site of the 1964 Bata Building by John C. Parkin became available and the AKDN’s vision for the campus was expanded. Over a year of studies and consultation with the Bata family followed to see if the Modernist landmark could be adaptively reused. In 2007, with the consent of Sonja Bata (who commissioned the Parkin building), demolition proceeded to allow the new initiatives to reach their full design potential. While numerous members of the architectural community are upset by the removal of the Bata building, many regrets will surely be assuaged after a visit to the trio of projects when they open this fall. Few are the institutions that have created public and semi-public spaces of this architectural calibre in Canada. This is evident upon one’s first steps into a park that extends to the edges of the 17-acre site. The decision to create an underground parking garage for over 600 cars—a remarkable investment for the semi-suburban site—frees the area above for a lush landscape. The park is planted with

oPPosite The auditorium roof of the Aga Khan Museum rises at the end of an avenue of serviceberry trees. toP From left to right, the Ismaili Centre, formal garden, and Aga Khan Museum occupy a site adjacent to the Don Valley Parkway. Above A skylit hall in the Ismaili Centre offers a generous space for intercommunity gatherings and events.

RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


some 1,200 mature trees and 12,000 shrubs, including light-filtering honey locusts, 10-metre-high dawn redwoods, and several magnificent 50-year-old magnolias. Between the two buildings, a strongly geometric formal garden is based on a traditional charbagh, or foursquare garden. Tucked behind a cedar hedge enclosure, large granite-lined reflecting pools are set within an orchard of five-metre-tall native serviceberries, expected to attract birds. “The park intends to offer the visitor a contemplative and sensory experience that reaches its peak in the serenity and tranquility of the formal garden,” says designer Vladimir Djurovic. “Water, in the form of reflecting mirrors, is the main component of this composition. The reflective qualities of these raised water mirrors somehow dematerialize the surrounding buildings and landscape, providing a tantalizing experience.” For local Ismailis, the most frequented part of the site will be the Ismaili Centre at one end of the formal garden. The Centre houses the pyramid-topped prayer hall along with community spaces, classrooms, and the Aga Khan Council for Canada’s offices. A grand drop-off area adjoins the curved front of the Ismaili Centre. A skylit canopy, supported by a single fair-faced concrete column and an array of glulam beams, creates a large sheltered area around the entrance—a welcome place to linger. The idea of discovery was central to Correa, and the spatial sequence leading to the prayer hall, or Jamatkhana, is measured and deliberate. In the lobby, a relatively compressed ceiling focuses attention to the floor, tiled in gold-veined Italian and Turkish marble. Those attending prayer enter through fritted glass doors into an anteroom with a higher ceiling, where attention is directed upwards to a complex corbelled skylight. The skylight’s geometry derives from muqarnas corbels, traditionally used to transition between circular and square geometries. A set of screens, made of delicate steel ribbons bent into curvilinear mashrabiya patterns, marks the threshold into the main space for spiritual reflection. Past the screens is arguably the site’s most magnificent space— a prayer hall wrapped in a translucent faceted skylight, Correa’s contemporary interpretation of a muqarnas ceiling.

A 21-metre-wide faceted skylight tops the prayer hall in the Ismaili Centre, a space that will be reserved for Ismaili Muslims once completed; a detail of the glazed roof assembly; a detail of the steel screen that separates the Jamatkhana’s anteroom from the main space for spiritual reflection. Above Honeycomb-shaped skylights are located above the main galleries in the Aga Khan Museum. The façade is made of white Brazilian granite and is detailed to produce crisp, clean-edged planes of light and shadow.

oPPosite, toP to bottom

The ceiling’s fractal geometries are reminiscent of the Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM) crystal addition by Daniel Libeskind—and indeed the same manufacturer, Germany-based Gartner Steel, created both structures. But the Ismaili Centre has none of the ROM’s aggressiveness. Structural steel trusses are sandwiched between an outer layer of doubleglazed units and a much more complexly faceted, triple-glazed inner skin. The interstitial space serves as a dynamic air buffer, adding a thick layer of insulation to the hall. The whole roof was first assembled in Europe, where the components were manufactured, to ensure it met exacting tolerance requirements—plus or minus three millimetres across the 21-metre span. A fine-grained ceramic frit gives the entire assembly a soft, glowing effect that shifts with changes in daylight. A single clear line of glazing marks the direction of Mecca. “Throughout the day the movement of the sun is subtly displayed, as the multi-faceted glass surfaces catch and diffuse light in a constantly changing pattern,” explains project architect Daniel Teramura of Moriyama & Teshima. “At times the light is very gentle and relatively flat, at other times the light is more assertive and the shadowy presence of the roof structure is legible. In any case, the light supports and enhances the spiritual nature of the Prayer Hall. It does not dominate or overwhelm the space.” The slight asymmetry of the roof geometry gives a fluid, dynamic quality to the space. “The architecture helps in contemplation,” says project director Shamez Mohamed. “When looking at the roof, you can lose yourself in its complexity. It’s an opportunity to let your mind go a little.” If Charles Correa’s Ismaili Centre unfolds with the fascination of a jewel box, Fumihiko Maki’s Aga Khan Museum possesses the precise order of a bento box. Like a flawless lacquer finish, the polished appearance of materials was key. “His Highness is particularly interested in the

finish materials,” notes the architect. In a 2006 letter to Maki, the Aga Khan wrote: “The goal would be to capture the day’s and night’s sources of light to create a sense of iridescence, reflectivity, and a glow on the building’s elevations and to use various manifestations of that light to emphasize subtle colours…the finishing material of the façades will have to be carefully selected and perhaps even specifically developed.” To achieve the desired effect, Maki angled the exterior walls at top and bottom to capture and reflect light in myriad ways throughout the year. Slight reveals between the angled sections accentuate the canted wall geometry, while a notched corner detail with separate stone inserts gives the building a sharp appearance. “The form of the building is chiselled and angulated to create a unique profile that creates shade and shadow,” says Maki. In lieu of white marble—the failure of the Bank of Montreal’s marble façade panels was still fresh in the minds of Torontonians—Maki sourced an unusually bright white Brazilian granite. Inside, the Museum is arrayed with a tidy logic around a glassed-in central courtyard. The galleries wrap around the south and east, an auditorium occupies the west side, and classrooms and services take up the remaining quadrant. The courtyard’s 13-metre-tall double-glass walls are etched with mashrabiya patterns—distinct on the inner and outer panes, but interlocking when juxtaposed. This technique results in complex, shifting patterns of light and shadow within the encircling hallway. On a sunny day, these patterns are effectively the first piece of art seen by visitors. The main galleries are shielded from courtyard light to protect artwork. For hardier artifacts, a line of windows brings in natural light. Honeycomb apertures along the top of the space—the hexagonal jut-outs visible from the highway—can be blacked out or partially opened. Says Maki, “To create a soft glow, the skylights were perforated in a geometric hex-

RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


RAIC Gold MedAl 2013


The permanent exhibition galleries occupy a double-height space on the main floor, while the temporary exhibition galleries take up the balcony level. left Designed to appear fashioned from a single folded steel plate, a stair ascends to the upper lobby of the auditorium. oPPosite A view of the Museum’s courtyard, with patterns from the fritted glass projected onto the walls and main staircase. Above

agonal pattern that may imply a sense of a modern Islamic vocabulary.” At any point in time, the main-floor galleries will exhibit some 300 of the Museum’s 1,000-piece collection of Islamic art. Vaults below store the remainder of the collection. The upper-floor gallery is designed for temporary exhibitions, including contemporary and international displays to be curated with partners such as the Louvre and the Hermitage. The name “Aga Khan Museum” is slightly deceptive, in that the institution’s ambitions extend to music, dance and even food. “Where most museums end with exhibition and educational programs centred on the visual arts, we begin with programs that provide visitors with a fuller view of the arts and culture of the Muslim world. I think people will be pleasantly surprised when they discover just how much the arts of Islam are part of our shared global cultural heritage,” says Museum Director Henry Kim. Easily the swankiest space in the Museum is its performance hall, a 350-seat venue swathed with teak. The durable tropical wood was used for the sculptural canopy over the stage, acoustic wall panels, and

even the floors. A soaring domed roof, reminiscent of Arabic bazaars, contains lighting and other technical equipment. The hope is that these cultural programs, testifying to the centrality of the universal values of knowledge and beauty within Islamic art, will help bridge the perceived divide between Islamic and Judeo-Christian perspectives. “The Museum’s focus on the arts of Islam will make it a unique institution in North America, contributing to a better understanding of Islamic civilizations—and especially of the plurality within Islam and of Islam’s relationship to other traditions,” said His Highness the Aga Khan at the project’s foundation ceremony. “In a world in which some speak of a growing clash of civilizations, we believe the Museum will help address what is not so much a clash of civilizations as it is a clash of ignorances.” From an architectural perspective, the building is already illuminating what is possible in the present. The two buildings and landscape show an exceptional level of detailing: from handcrafted items such as the

intricate mosaic tiling of the Museum’s courtyard, to precision-manufactured assemblies such as the Ismaili Centre’s glass roof. Even in the outdoor spaces, a high degree of accuracy was maintained: the wide, shallow reflecting pools are perfectly level to avoid dry spots appearing on the hottest days. All these details testify to a culture of craftsmanship, as well as to innumerable discussions, mock-ups, and site visits between client, architects and manufacturers. “It’s been a labour of love for many of us,” says project director Shamez Mohamed. For many that participated, it’s a rarity to work for a client with the resources of the Aga Khan and his dedication to such a high level of architectural execution. “The commitment to quality originates from the client,” says Maki. “The unmitigated and uncompromised support to achieve a high-quality project was consistent for both the Aga Khan Museum and Delegation Building.” Canadians—and especially Canadian architects—should consider themselves lucky to have the resulting projects in our midst.

RAIC Gold MedAl 2013



RAIC Gold MedAl 2013



in search of empathetic architecture TexT

Bruno Freschi

The uniqueness of this encounter was its absolute unexpectedness, my total surprise, and the slowly unfolding client aspirations for this rather auspicious building. I had received a call from someone asking to have a very short meeting of introduction. A small group appeared to explain their purpose, which was a search for an architect to create a Jamatkhana, or Ismaili Muslim place of worship. There was no time to prepare any presentation of my work, which would have been normal under the circumstances. Clearly, this committee did not want to be subjected to a traditional marketing pitch. Yes, was my response, I was very interested and understood the nature of the building. As well, we spoke of my travels, intellectual curiosity, and exposure to Islamic architecture. I explained my appreciation for transcultural sacred space and the architecture of community. Eventually, I was invited to meet with His Highness the Aga Khan, and thus began a series of open conversations about cultural knowledge, community, and of course, architecture. In the Aga Khan I discovered a deep understanding of architecture. He had a profound grasp of the potential of architecture to ground a community and give it identity, to embody its spiritual aspirations. We explored contemporary architecture, sacred space, civil society

His Highness the aga khan with architect Bruno Freschi (left) and former Lieutenant-governor of British columbia, the Honourable Henry Bell-Irwing (centre), at the Vancouver Ismaili centre site in 1982.


ArchiTecT Bruno Freschi recAlls The inspired discussions wiTh his highness The AgA khAn ThAT guided The design oF The vAncouver ismAili cenTre. and the power of place for a new immigrant community in a country that celebrated universal pluralism: Canada. To me, these inspired and exciting discussions established an intuition of the soul of the project. The discussions continued throughout the conceptual evolution of the Ismaili Centre in Vancouver. Vision, program and design all evolved simultaneously in a patient and creative search. The Aga Khan’s intellectual openness set a tone that enabled a high degree of experimentation and critical analysis as the design team explored the project’s architectural (and philosophical) directions with many people. An intellectual foundation emerged around the concept of “empathic architecture”—an understanding that ultimately, architecture inspires the human endeavours of spirit and community through creating places that enable openness to the other. The Jamatkhana was to be a sacred place, a living foundation, and a site of encounter for a newly settled people. The Centre also included secular spaces, reflecting the inextricable bond between the spiritual and the material worlds. As a design team, we sought to create a place of prayer and contemplation. The physical presence of the building synthesizes the elements of structure, geometry, calligraphy, materiality and light. A narrative is revealed in the sequence of

moving through the garden, entering the foyer, and finally, proceeding to the prayer hall. The light is gradual, allowing you to discover the place slowly. In the prayer hall, the architectural narrative is absolute and complete, thus freeing one to go beyond the physical place and seek the spiritual. This is the paradox of sacred architecture: the complete realization of a material presence in order to transcend it. It is in this sense that the architecture expresses a belief that “one goes in to go out.” The search for the sacred transcends the architectural narrative. Empathic architecture is essentially about creating a real place for personal and civic encounter, a place of welcome and opening to the other. Just as sacred space seeks to free a person to transcend the physical and move towards a spiritual encounter, so too the Ismaili Centre seeks to act as an iconic place for the civic encounter. It is a place of understanding and synthesis of cultures: East and West, young and old, Muslim and non-Muslim. The architecture, like the Aga Khan himself, speaks to and celebrates this openness. Again, “one goes in to go out.” Bruno Freschi was the lead architect for the Ismaili Centre in Vancouver, completed in 1985, and was chief architect for Expo ’86 in Vancouver. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1987.

CA RAIC Gold Medal magazine 2013  
CA RAIC Gold Medal magazine 2013  

A supplement to Canadian Architect magazine showcasing the RAIC Gold Medal winner.