On March 6, 1985, Mawlana Hazar Imam announced a major commitment in the field of Architectural Education for the Islamic World. He was in Cambridge, Massachusetts (U.S.A.) to sign an agreement with two leading universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, for the extension and expansion of the joint Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, originally established in 1979.
The new agreement consists of a grant of $900,000 US per year over the next ten years, which will ensure the expansion and diversification of the program which, on its inception five years ago, was provided with an ongoing endowment of $9 million US and supplementary funding for current programs of $2.5 million US. Part of the new grant will be used to continue those activities already established. However, the major share of this new grant will support two significant additional activities, a Masters Degree program in "Design for Islamic Cultures", the first of its kind in the Western World, and the development of special links with a number of programs and institutions in the Islamic World.
The program's broad goals are to improve education, encourage research and develop information sources for historians of Islamic Architecture and for Architects and Urbanists currently planning for building in Muslim societies.
During the past five years, the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture has enhanced resources in Islamic Studies by supporting the development of library collections at both Universities, by funding faculty appointments through The Aga Khan Professorships and its Visiting Professor Program and by making fellowships available to enable doctoral students at both Universities to study Islamic Art and Architectural traditions. Over 700 participants from throughout the Islamic World have attended a series of seminars and conferences held at Cambridge (Massachusetts), Karachi, Singapore, and Tunis. A series of summer seminars, entitled "Design in Islamic Cultures" was conducted under the organization of Dr. Mona Serageldin.
In addition to the faculty and student programs and the series of seminars and conferences, the Aga Khan Program also helped to finance the updating of the Basic Bibliography in Islamic Art and Architectural Studies, K.A.C.
Creswell's Bibliography of the Architecture, Arts and Crafts of Islam, undertaken by scholars at the American University of Cairo, "A Guide to the Islamic Monuments of Morocco, and a book on Traditional Yemen Architecture" by Fernandao Veranda of Portugal. The original endowment also provided funds for expanded information facilities in Harvard's Fogg Museum Library and MIT's Rotch Library, and the development of a unique computer-based Videodisc resource for the gathering and dissemination of information throughout the Islamic World.
Plans for the second phase include a new specialization in design for Islamic Cultures in the Master's Degree Program at the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, new courses at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, and the development of an Outreach Program of Collaboration between the Aga Khan Program and a small number of parallel Institutions in the Islamic World. Other new grant funds have been made available for expanding endowment supported student aid including scholarships for professional degree students and special aid to foreign students.
The MIT Master of Science in Architectural Studies will admit its first students in the Islamic Design Specialization in the autumn of 1985. The specialty is structured for students who wish to develop design skills required for practice, teaching or research in the Architecture of the Islamic countries and communities.
Speaking at the signing ceremony in the presence of President Bok of Harvard University and President Gray of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Hazar Imam said that these two Institutions today constitute the single largest resource base for Islamic Architecture in the world.
Referring to the next phase of the expanded program, Hazar Imam said "In addition to the newly established Masters Degree Program in Design for Islamic Cultures, the program will also encompass an outreach dimension directed at selected institutions teaching Architecture and Environmental Design in the Islamic World. The intent here is to build bridges with institutions of higher learning in the Muslim World."
The Aga Khan Program will also strive in the coming years to become a common meeting ground - a place for exchange of ideas for researchers in Architecture and Design.
Outstanding scholars who have participated in the various activities in The Aga Khan Program include Professor Oleg Grabar, specialist in Islamic Art at Harvard University, Professor William Porter, former Dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, Dr. Leila Ali Ebrahim of Egypt, Professor Sirajul Islam of the University of Dhaka, Professor Gulzar Haider of Carleton University, Canada, Abdulla Bokhari and Dr. Saleh Al-Hathloul of Saudi Arabia, Professor Muhsin Mahdi of Harvard University and Professor Nazli Choucri of the MIT, (members of The Aga Khan Program Advisory Committee) and Mehmet Dorek Pamir of Turkey.
(Source: HD March 85)
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