The goal is to create a building which causes the viewer to wonder how different elements and different planes relate to each other, how they work together to tickle the eye (the Aga Khan said, proposing that Mr. Maki take inspiration from rock crystal, the mineral quartz in its clear and colourless form).

In a rock crystal the cuts and angles permit both transparency as well as translucency. It pleases and confuses the eye by its internal planes running at different angles, creating a sense of visual mystery. The … building in a sense should be somewhat mysterious and visually nearly esoteric. It should not be blatant but ethereal, not obvious but difficult to captivate.

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In October 2002, Fumihiko Maki, a distinguished architect, received an unusual letter at his Tokyo office. It was written on behalf of Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, spiritual leader of the world’s 15 million Ismaili Muslims. The Aga Khan, as he is known, had appointed Mr. Maki to design a building in Ottawa. It would be the first in the world to represent him and the Aga Khan Development Network, which supports social, economic and cultural projects in developing countries. The three-page letter, sent from his château outside of Paris, outlined the Aga Khan’s vision.

The goal is to create a building which causes the viewer to wonder how different elements and different planes relate to each other, how they work together to tickle the eye (the Aga Khan said, proposing that Mr. Maki take inspiration from rock crystal, the mineral quartz in its clear and colourless form).

In a rock crystal the cuts and angles permit both transparency as well as translucency. It pleases and confuses the eye by its internal planes running at different angles, creating a sense of visual mystery. The … building in a sense should be somewhat mysterious and visually nearly esoteric. It should not be blatant but ethereal, not obvious but difficult to captivate.

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