MAY 26, 1983


The 8th International Seminar of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture was opened on 26th May 1983, in Sana'a by Mowlana Hazar Imam and his excellency the Prime Minister of the Yemen Arab Republic, Dr. Abdul-Karim Al-Iryani. Mr. Jaques Sirvain, Advisor to the Technical Co-operation Division of United Nations Centre for Human Settlements - HABITAT for Africa, Western Europe and Asia, was a speaker at the opening ceremony. He conveyed the greetings of Dr. Arcot Ramchandran, the Executive Director of HABITAT for the success of the Seminar and thanked the Government of Yemen Arab Republic and the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, stating that "The Centre for Human Settlements, HABITAT, will look forward to see the results of the deliberations of this Seminar and hope that the discussions here will lead to a useful contribution of human settlements throughout the Islamic World and to the conservation of this heritage".

The event which was attended by leading members of the government and the diplomatic corps inaugurated the seminar which has brought together more than 40 architects, sociologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, engineers and planners from a score of countries with local specialists and government officials who will address themselves to the issue of a threatened architectural and urban heritage.

This seminar, the 2nd to be held in the Arab world is dedicated to the study of the impact of development on architecture and urbanism. The working papers cover various aspects of the impact which modern construction techniques are having on traditional methods and styles and the wider issues of planning and reconciling conservation with the requirements of development.

Hazar Imam in his opening speech emphasized the crucial importance of these issues to planners and governments throughout not only the Muslim world, but also to the world as a whole.

"The old Islamic world" said Hazar Imam, "possessed a strong civilization which expressed itself in good architecture, which both improved and inspired the lives of ordinary people, which represented important things to them. We have to maintain our links with this historic heritage, yet not deny ourselves those contributions which modern technology can make to improving the quality of people's life."

Referring to the holding of the seminar in the Yemen Arab Republic, Hazar Imam remarked "We are privileged to be meeting in a country with a magnificent architectural heritage". He emphasized that "Yemen is now faced with challenges which are not entirely of its own making".

"There are new expectations in the world, whether we like them or not, and there are human, political, social and other pressures which must somehow be met. This is the first reason we are here, to learn how Yemen is handling these pressures and these needs".

His Excellency the Prime Minister of the Yemen Arab Republic, Dr. Abdul-Karim Al-Iryani said: "The Yemeni found himself face to face with the challenges of the 2nd half of the 20th century technically, politically, economically and socially. If there is a nation which finds itself faced with shocks of modernity, it is Yemen. However the originality of the Yemeni was a decisive factor in his ability to absorb the technological advancement of the age while maintaining his culture and his characteristics. Dr. Iryani added that "This does not mean that the rapid implementation of economic and social development will not have a negative impact on our culture unless we, the Yemenis, exert great efforts to ensure that rapid development does not sweep the originality in our culture. We therefore view with great interest the problems of the preservation of our cultural heritage".

Referring to the architectural heritage of Yemen as not being the property of Yemen alone but "A historical result expressing the evolution of mankind", he recognized this seminar as a proof that cooperation between nations for conservations was a responsibility of mankind as a whole.

Hazar Imam expressed the hope that the seminar would lead to a greater awareness of the issues involved in reconciling the potentially conflicting demands of modernity and tradition, and that "When we arrive at the final discussion, we shall have learned something of practical as well as philosophical value to those architects and planners all over the Muslim world who are today forging the environment of tomorrow".

Source: Africa Ismaili (July 1983)

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