On Saturday, October 25, 1980, Mowlana Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah visited the 721-bed Aga Khan Hospital and Medical College site in Karachi to review construction and progress to date. Hazar Imam also performed the symbolic ground breaking ceremony of the main complex of the Hospital and Medical College, which will be fully operational in 1984.
That Saturday, which is the first working day of the week in Pakistan, it was also back to school for 35 young Pakistani women who enrolled for their first class at the newly-opened School of Nursing- the first component of the $250 million Hospital. The first graduates of the School will work in the new Hospital; eventually some will work in Ismaili health units all over Pakistan, from maternity homes in Karachi to remote health stations in the Himalayas.
The teaching facilities are affiliated with major foreign institutions including the McGill and MacMaster Universities of Canada and the University of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The Hospital, which is the largest philanthropic project sponsored by the private sector in Pakistan is to play a pioneering role as the training and support centre for a network of over 100 primary health care units in rural areas-an issue of growing importance in developing countries. The Karachi Hospital and all its facilities will serve patients regardless of race, nationality or religion.
Speaking about the project Hazar Imam said that the Hospital is a commitment to the betterment of the condition of life in people in Pakistan and represents an intimate collaboration between the East and the West.
"It is in fashion to portray that relationship as one of potential conflict, it is my hope and prayer that this project will demonstrate the very opposite; that all men and women of goodwill of sincerity and who are concerned with the betterment of people living in this part of the world, will unite in making this project a living demonstration of international concern for the betterment of people-and it is in this spirit that I am so happy to see so many people of different parts of the world all working together towards a common objective", a beaming Hazar Imam told his audience.
Sponsored by the Aga Khan Foundation, the Hospital aims to provide modern functional buildings which at the same time reflect the great traditions of Muslim architecture. Before starting work the design team was required to visit a selected series of sites at which the classic Islamic architectural traditions are revealed in their purest form; this journey took them through Spain, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Iran and ended with a fact-finding study of Karachi itself.
The resulting design successfully blends the spirit of the old with the functional requirements of the new, by designing buildings around interior courtyards which themselves maximise the use of reflective and running water, a feature which is so much a part of the great tradition of Muslim architecture. Although the materials used on the exterior of the Hospital are uniform throughout, the effect is varied due to the many slides, slopes and angles of the buildings. Pink marble from Nowhere predominates in areas with the heaviest pedestrian traffic. The Hospital will be air-conditioned and natural gas, readily available in Pakistan, will supply energy.
Source: Canadian Ismaili, 1981
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