Contents of the ‘Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA)’ category in chronological order.

2016 Aga Khan for Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (Al-Ain, United Arab Emirates)

I think, first, of how great architecture can integrate the past and the future — inherited tradition and changing needs. We need not choose between looking back and looking forward; they are not competing choices, but healthy complements. We can learn valuable lessons from history without getting lost in history; we can look boldly ahead without ignoring what has gone before….

I think of how architectural excellence can integrate the Gifts of Nature and the potentials of the Human Mind. Natural Blessings and Human Creativity are Divine gifts — and it is wrong to embrace one at the expense of the other. The best architecture teaches us to engage with Nature respectfully; not by conquering or subduing it, nor by isolating ourselves away from it.

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2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture Winner’s Semiar (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) ·· incomplete

We’re beginning to see in many parts of the Muslim world … how global warming is beginning to create situations where life is at risk, where it was not at risk before…. We’re seeing villages are being wiped away by earthquakes, by landslides, by avalanches, we’re seeing people moving to dangerous areas in modern environments…. I would ask you to try to bring this issue forward so that we address it in good time (he said). I see these crises of change as being badly predicted.

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Acceptance Address – Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s Gold Medal (Ottawa, Canada)

Is it not true that the quality of our lives is fundamentally shaped by the spaces in which we live, spaces that provide physical security, and spaces where we seek spiritual enrichment? They are spaces where we work, and where we pause from work; where we expand our minds and restore our health, places where we congregate and where we meditate; and they are places where we are born, as well as places of final rest….

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. I thought about this universal capacity for comprehension again, these past weeks, as the world reacted to photographs of the Haiyan typhoon in the Philippines.

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.

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2013 Aga Khan Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (Lisbon, Portugal)

As I think back to the origins of this Award almost four decades ago, I recall my own growing realisation at that time that the proud architectural heritage of the Islamic world was endangered. Here was one of the world’s great architectural traditions, often inspired, as major architectural flowerings are so often, by one of the world’s great religious faiths.

And yet, this flowering had been allowed to decay, and in some cases almost to disappear. Nowhere else, in no other great cultural tradition, had this sort of compromise threatened such a rich inheritance. The result was that, for huge segments of the world’s population, cultural memory was fading, and an enormous cultural disaster seemed to be looming.

One part of the issue had been the effect of the colonial experience on Islamic cultures. But even in post-colonial or non-colonial settings, much of the Islamic architectural practice seemed to be consumed by a growing passion to be truly “modern”, or by a rudderless quest to be fashionably “global”.

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UNESCO Conference on Culture and Development Keynote Address (Hangzhou, China)

For all of these journeys [of cultural projects], the development process has been long and complex, but filled with stimulating lessons. Let me briefly summarise five of them.

First, these cultural projects depend upon an ethic of partnership. This means that traditional separations between public and private domains must be set aside. The concept of public-private partnership is an essential keystone for effective cultural development. The role of governments, including municipalities, is fundamental in providing what we often term “an enabling environment” for development. But the public sector cannot do this work alone…. I have one more comment to make about partnerships. It is absolutely essential that effective partnerships are maintained throughout the life of a project, including the post-completion period….

This discussion leads me to a second conclusion: while cultural development often begins with physical legacies, planning must focus well beyond the cultural goals. We cannot somehow assume that a favourable social and economic impact will flow naturally as a by-product of cultural commitments. Issues relating to the quality of life must be considered from the beginning and monitored throughout the project’s life.

A third point in this list of lessons learned is that the engagement of the local community from the earliest stages is imperative for success. Cultural endeavours, in particular, involve risks that go beyond external, economic factors. Their progress can depend heavily on variable qualities of human nature, including the pride and confidence of the peoples involved….

There is a fourth point that is also special to historic restoration projects. That is the fact that we can never be sure just what we will encounter as the work of rediscovery moves along. There are many unknowns going in, and we must be ready for surprises….

Let me finally highlight a fifth lesson. Planning for such projects must anticipate how they will operate on a continuing basis after they are completed…. Up-front investment will be on everyone’s mind at the start. But our financial strategies should include eventual income streams that will sustain the project over the long run. One of the least happy outcomes for any cultural initiative is that it becomes a net drain on the local population.

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Paris Match Interview (5th), Caroline Pigozzi (Paris, France)

[Google translation] This magnificent heritage deserved a public-private partnership and specific joint program. My experience of social issues, philanthropy and the fact that I live in the area have prompted various actors ask me to be the president of the Foundation for the Protection and Development of the Chantilly Domain, to manage and restoring the side of the Institut de France in which he will return in 2025.

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Urban Land Institute’s Annual Conference Leadership Dinner (Paris, France)

For my comments this evening it was suggested that I share some of the lessons the Aga Khan Development Network has learned from its 50 and more years of work, essentially in the developing countries of East and West Africa, South and Central Asia, and the Middle East. And it seemed that one of the subjects that I might discuss with you this evening, and which bridges our interests of today and perhaps our destinies for tomorrow, is the subject of impact investing.

As you know, a wide spectrum of investors has been increasingly involved in “impact investing,” using a diverse array of assets, employing highly disciplined due diligence and accounting analyses, and pursuing a balanced mix of financial, social, economic and environmental goals. It has been exciting to see the volume of such investments growing substantially in recent years, with growth expected to reach around 500 billion U.S. dollars in the next ten years.

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‘Prospecting the Past, Inspiring the Future’, Preface to ‘The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme: Strategies for Urban Regeneration’ edited by Philip Jodidio (Aiglemont)

My effort to defend the value of culture, through the Aga Khan Development Network, and specifically through its dedicated agency, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, focuses its activities in four main areas: the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme; the Aga Khan Award for Architecture; the Aga Khan Music Initiative; and Museum Projects.

These activities, which are themselves subdivided into a number of subsidiary programmes in many countries, obey four key principles. Firstly, they seek to increase the beneficiaries’ independence, to involve local communities, and to secure the support of public and private partners. Secondly, they are carried out in poor environments where there are considerable centrifugal, sometimes even conflicting, forces at play. Thirdly, they are designed to have maximum beneficial impact on the economies of the populations involved and their quality of life in the broadest sense of the term. Finally, they are planned in the long term, over a period of up to twenty-five years, enabling them to become self-sufficient both financially as well as in terms of human resources.

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2010 Aga Khan Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (Doha, Qatar)

As we look to the future, let me mention four principle areas of concern: the Islamic environment of our work, its relevant constituencies, the shifting social and economic scene, and the impact of new technologies….

Why should we emphasise an Islamic approach to architecture? Our Master Jury, in responding to this question, has described how global forces now threaten the values of “memory, heritage and belonging,” and how the built environment can help meet that challenge….

The unity of the Ummah does not imply sameness. Working in an Islamic context need not confine us to constraining models. Nor does respecting the past mean copying the past. Indeed, if we hold too fast to what is past, we run the risk of crushing that inheritance. The best way to honour the past is to seize the future. In sum, an Islamic architectural agenda involves a dual obligation — a heightened respect for both the traditions of the past and the conditions of the future.

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Syrian TV Interview, Reem Haddad (Aleppo, Syria)

Your Highness, is there a message that you would like to leave the Syrian people?

Well first of all, the respect and admiration that I have for Syria in its historic role within the Ummah. Secondly the notion that progress does not mean occidentalisation. Progress in the Ummah means moving forward in quality of life, but not giving up your identity, not giving up your value systems. Indeed our values systems are massively important for the future. [Emphasis original]

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Aga Khan Award for Architecture Seminar and Exhibition on winning projects in Burkina Faso and West Africa (Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso)

[Official translation] The improvement of rural housing is obviously an important goal in the development process, first to improve the quality of life in rural populations, which are often the poorest in these countries, but also to pass on the message that, for a start, these people are not forgotten by those who support national growth in their country. Moreover, they do not need to adopt an urban life in order to build a stable and promising future in the medium and long term.

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2007 (10th) Aga Khan Award For Architecture Presentation Ceremony (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

If ignoring the past was a problem on one side, then the opposite danger was an exaggerated submission to the past, so that some creations and creators became prisoners of dogma or nostalgia. There is a danger, in every area of life, everywhere in the world, that people will respond to the hastening pace of change with an irrational fear of modernism, and will want to embrace uncritically that which has gone before. The Islamic world has sometimes been vulnerable to this temptation — and the rich potential for a new “Islamic modernism” has sometimes been under-estimated.

The Aga Khan Award was designed, in part, to address this situation, encouraging those who saw the past as a necessary prelude to the future and who saw the future as a fulfilling extension of the past. In my view, a healthy life, for an individual or a community, means finding a way to relate the values of the past, the realities of the present, and the opportunities of the future. The built environment can play a central role in helping us to achieve that balance.

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Philip Jodidio Interview (2nd) published in ‘Under the Eaves of Architecture’, ‘The Processes of Change’ (London, United Kingdom)

The vast majority of buildings in the developing world are not “architectured” buildings in the sense of the Western profession. That does not mean that quality buildings do not happen. They happen through a whole series of different processes, and not just the architectural process. The inherited knowledge of builders is remarkable. There is a whole body of inherited knowledge in developing countries, and in the Islamic world in particular, which is not driven by Western definitions of architecture.

When the Award started, the question arose about whether we were talking about that small window of “architectured” buildings in this enormous environment or whether we were talking about the whole process of change of that environment? … 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…. The Award was very definitely an initiative to recognise the processes of building quality….

I think that the Award must evolve. Institutions that do not evolve tend to get marginalised. There are needs ahead of us which must be addressed by the Award. The biggest concern I would have is to recognise the processes of change, and to be certain that the Award plays an appropriate role in working with those processes so that they are not exclusive of quality in design or environmental concerns.

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‘On the Role of Culture in Development’, Aga Khan Trust for Culture Brochure (Aiglemont)

Twenty years later, the [Aga Khan Trust for Culture] has shown how culture can be a catalyst for development even in the poorest and most remote areas of the globe. From Afghanistan to Zanzibar, from India to Mali, the Trust’s support to historic communities demonstrates how conservation and revitalisation of the cultural heritage — in many cases the only asset at the disposal of the community — can provide a springboard for social development. We have also seen how such projects can have a positive impact well beyond conservation, promoting good governance, the growth of civil society, a rise in incomes and economic opportunities, greater respect for human rights and better stewardship of the environment. Indeed, we have seen architectural models recognised by the Aga Khan Award for Architecture have a profound impact when they are replicated….

For all these reasons, the Trust works to preserve the cultural heritage of the Muslim world — not as a bulwark against the contemporary world, but rather to ensure that the rich heritage of these cultures endures. At the same time, the Trust’s education programmes promote pluralism and tolerance as an antidote to what I call the “clash of ignorance.” It is my hope that one day pluralism will become accepted as the norm within communities and among the nations of the earth. I know of no better road to lasting peace than tolerance for the differences of faith, culture and origin.

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National Building Museum Panel Discussion on ‘Design in the Islamic World and Its Impact Beyond’ at the Scully Seminar/Symposium (Washington D.C., USA)

Today, the absence of public spaces in the Islamic world is something of major concern to me. And, Charles, you were talking about city planning. I think we are, generally speaking, in the Islamic world still very weak on landscape architecture and planning. We will need to do a lot more there. A number of architectural schools actually are linked to schools of engineering. And that, in itself, tends to bring a form of architecture which may not necessarily be what we would be looking for. I’m not criticising that, but I’m saying what used to be a great strength in Islamic design seems to have disappeared. And one of the issues that we’re trying to develop now is to restore value to these traditional forms, and keep in mind that these materials in these forms are not without meaning.

In many, many cases they’re symbols, symbols of interpretation of the faith, symbols of viewing of the future and so on and so forth. So I think it’s very important that this notion of beauty should be respected and developed. Now taste changes so I think we have to be careful not to try to take the sense of taste of the past and stick it on an airport or stick it on a modern building. I mean, I think we have to live in our time and live in the future also.

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Address to the National Building Museum’s Scully Seminar/Symposium (Washington D.C., USA)

I profoundly believed that architecture is not just about building; it is a means of improving people’s quality of life…. I am pleased that 28 years later, we have had some success in achieving our original goals [of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture]. We are gratified that so many others now are engaged in the cause. We have created a momentum that has become a self-sustaining and unstoppable force for change in the human habitat of the Muslim world. And I am most pleased the principles we have established are having an impact in much of the developed world as well.

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Acceptance Address – National Building Museum’s Vincent Scully Prize (Washington D.C., USA)

Ladies and gentlemen, some 30 years [ago] I began to question why architecture in the modern Islamic world seemed to have lost touch with the great achievements of its past. I began working with leading architects, philosophers, artists, teachers, historians and thinkers — from all religious faiths — to establish an Award for Architecture….

Now some 28 years later, the extent to which we have been successful is due to a multitude of individuals and organisations from all regions, faiths and occupations…. It is on behalf of this broad spectrum of qualified men and women that I accept the Vincent Scully Award this evening…. I know of no process where so many people of such different backgrounds have come together to improve the living conditions of more than one billion people.

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Aga Khan Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony, Seminar (Agra, India) ·· incomplete

As we move forward it is important for us to accept that we are a community of people interested in building environments for Muslims in different parts of the world. We are looking at creating inspiring value systems which our societies and our professionals will be able to look to and to say to themselves, with these value systems we can move forwards in trust and confidence because we have an understanding of the kind of environment we wish to have.

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Times of India Interviews ‘Celebrating Beauty’ & ‘Education has not kept pace with globalisation’ (New Delhi, India)

The past cannot be repeated. By copying it, it proves that one cannot do better. By repeating the past, by designing the same thing is not the solution. Modernity cannot be denied. How do we merge the two? That is continuity. We can’t ask people to live in mud houses. We have to come up with new solutions. The award tries to connect the two. The monuments of the past are important but the monuments of today are also important and they have to be recognised.

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Ninth Aga Khan Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (New Delhi, India)

The issues we have been attempting to address through the process of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture are not exclusive to the Muslim world. The non-Muslim world struggles equally with explosive population growth, poverty, environmental degradation, exodus from rural areas, globalisation and the impact on cultural identity of new forms of media. I hope that the lessons learned in the process we have established would be applicable to the many others in similar circumstances. Perhaps these lessons will one day be seen as an important contribution from the Muslim world: A contribution to the broader cause of maintaining and enhancing a multi-cultural, pluralist world and a responsive, appropriate human habitat.

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