Oleg Grabar Interview (Boston, USA) ·· incomplete
- Categories: Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA) ·· Aga Khan IV ·· Architecture ·· Incomplete ·· Interviews ·· Islam (Culture & Heritage) ·· Published ·· Society (Ummah) ·· United States
[Mimar Magazine was] too elite a voice and a publication for the expression of the concerns of history, tradition and identity raised by the [Aga Khan Award for Architecture]. It quite simply did not reach enough people because it was too expensive.
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Interviewer: Oleg Grabar
In the early 1980s, Hasan Uddin Khan was also directly involved in another of the architectural initiatives of the Aga Khan, the magazine Mimar: Architecture in Development, which remains one of the most highly respected and influential journals in its field, despite having halted publication some years ago. He describes the rapport between the creation of the Award and that of the magazine: “Renata Holod left the Award just before the first ceremony, so I took over at that time. I was in Lahore for the first awards. I read the citations and I passed His Highness the statue. It was quite simple. It became much more sophisticated afterwards. I felt that the Islamic world did not have any good architecture publication — there were local ones, but nothing broader. I went to His Highness and said we really need a publication. He agreed, but immediately said that he wanted it separate from the Award. I proposed a magazine that would look at the developing world in general and would have an emphasis on Islamic societies. The things we needed to look at might include what was happening in South America or India, where Islam was not involved. I was introduced to Brian Taylor. He had worked for the magazine AD, but not for His Highness. Brian was quite excited. We set it up together. He introduced me to Emilio Ambasz. I wanted to produce a mock-up. I had no idea of economics or distribution, but I felt that developing countries should not have a cheap newspaper. I wanted to out-gloss anything that was being published. I thought that what was important was the image — that people who read other architecture journals would recognise Mimar as a magazine of the same standard and quality as the best. It had to be visually exciting because architects like visually exciting things. We came up with the idea of the cut-out based on a Mughal miniature — Emilio designed the first two covers himself.”
As it happens, there was some disenchantment with Mimar and indeed its publication was suspended, in part because it was not reaching a sufficiently large audience. In 1998 the Aga Khan told Oleg Grabar that he was disappointed that what he described as the
new cultural consciousness, the new sense of the importance of tradition and ethical issues surrounding its conservation and preservation, had so far been limited to a small and elite group of intellectuals and professionals in the Muslim societies most directly affected by the changes in question, as well as by the attitudes toward them.
In his opinion Mimar was
too elite a voice and a publication for the expression of the concerns of history, tradition and identity raised by the Award. It quite simply did not reach enough people because it was too expensive.
This is one of the reasons for the creation of the ArchNet website based at MIT in 1998 (see page 146). After a hiatus of several years during which the failure of Mimar was studied, it became apparent that the Internet offered the kind of broad accessibility that was sought by the Aga Khan.
- Interview by Oleg Grabar, 1998, Boston, USA, as quoted in Under the Eaves of Architecture: The Aga Khan: Builder and Patron, Philip Jodidio, Prestel Verlagal, 2007, pp 22
[Text verified and/or corrected from this source by NanoWisdoms]
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