Modernity is part of the concern of the award and our objective is to permeate good architecture, not to freeze it any time. The symbols of the past may be re-utilised in modern architecture, they may be dropped, new symbols may come forward — we need continuity, particularly in conservation, but, no, we’re not going to stymie creativity of the Islamic world. [Emphasis original.]

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Interviewer: Sylvia Smith in Mombasa or Cairo

CNN Design 360

The Aga Khan is spiritual leader of 15 million Ismaili Shia Muslims. He’s also one of the most influential figures in architecture today.

I said to myself, “What’s happened to the architecture of the Islamic world? Has it disappeared? And why has it disappeared?” And I brought together a number of thinkers in a very open forum. We had to influence decision makers. We had to influence schools of architecture.

The Aga Khan’s interest in architecture developed in the 1970’s as a reaction to the Western style building spree in Arab countries. Through his award he began promoting the idea that architecture is not an art for the rich only and that traditional Islamic architecture and modernity are compatible.

Modernity is part of the concern of the award and our objective is to permeate good architecture, not to freeze it any time. The symbols of the past may be re-utilised in modern architecture, they may be dropped, new symbols may come forward — we need continuity, particularly in conservation, but, no, we’re not going to stymie creativity of the Islamic world. [Emphasis original.]

At half a million dollars it’s the richest architectural prize in the world. It’s agenda is to encourage local building traditions, urban rehabilitation and rural development. A project’s social impact is as important as its aesthetics.

The most acute poverty in many Islamic cities is in the historic parts. And that’s because ownership is not clear, because degradation is not watched, because newly urbanised populations come through these environments don’t stay there. You can rehabilitate a historic city, you can give a new sense of social and economic movement to the population in there and they will then become not only permanent residents of that area,but they will find an economic take-off, and economic trampoline….

CNN Inside Africa

[The Mombasa Aga Khan Academy is] a school that’s not about entrenching privilege, rather it’s a springboard for the best. Best here, though, means those who have the most ability even if they don’t have much money. And this school here in Mombasa is just the beginning. A network of academies throughout Africa will connect with similar schools around the globe.

It’s essential that the secondary educational system should be upgraded. Here in Kenya, enormous efforts are being put into primary education. That’s correct, but what happens if secondary education doesn’t follow?

These children will receive and education from what the Aga Khan hopes will be one of the best schools in the world. Part of the ethos of the Aga Khan Centres of Excellence is to upgrade teaching itself. And it doesn’t stop here. Aiming high today means more than just being proficient in one language and being competent in the context of one culture.

Because they will be a network, they will have an impact in issues such are pluralism, such as multiculturalism, where hopefully over the next 10, 15 years you will find a new constituency of young men and women who will not have been educated in within the singular context of one country and one language.

And the occasion was suitably international with the Ministers for Education from eight of the targeted African countries gathered together.

SOURCES

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