THURSDAY, MARCH 29th 1979
Source: Housing Process and Physical Form: Proceedings of Seminar Three, p. 105
The third seminar of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture has come to an end. I would like to thank the President, the Government of Indonesia and in particular the Minister of Religion for the exceptionally warm and welcoming manner with which we have been permitted to see some of the low cost housing being developed or improved in Indonesia. I must also thank our Indonesian friends who have participated in the seminar: for explaining some of the problems they have had to resolve, the considerations and objectives which inspired them, and what they have achieved.
This seminar has addressed itself to housing, one of the most difficult problems confronting the governments and people of the developing world, and in particular the Islamic world. It encompasses so many different considerations, requirements and unknown variables that perhaps one of the principle results of our seminar has been to bring this immense complexity out into the open. We have thereby been given the benefit of the knowledge and experience of an exceptional group of men and women who possess up-to-date personal knowledge of the issues involved, including some of the successes and some of the mistakes that have been made in facing the challenge. We have heard how difficult it is for people involved in the everyday obligation of developing housing in Islamic countries to find even simple information on what exists, where it exists, in what way it was put together, by whom, and what results it has produced for the people who have eventually inhabited particular housing types.
A major achievement of our seminar has been to highlight how very little is known of what is or might be appropriate housing for the Islamic world, and therefore appropriate for Muslims rather than for other peoples and cultures. In talking about Islamic housing, we are not talking about housing for Muslims exclusively. We are talking about housing which reflects the culture of the majority of the people who live in any given country, and which therefore has an Islamic population but is in no way exclusively Muslim. All to often we forget that Islamic societies lived and worked and were educated in secular buildings, and these buildings still reflected the art, the taste, the culture, the skill and the craftsmanship of those societies.
Listening to the debates that have taken place during the seminar has been like looking through a kaleidoscope which, shaken every time it is passed from hand to hand, always shows a new image but is set consistently in the same frame. Perhaps this reflects the diversity of our Islamic world as well as the singleness of our aspiration for good housing. From the Steering Committee's point of view, this seminar has more than fulfilled our hopes and objectives. It has highlighted many of the questions involved in housing: housing for whom, designed by whom or not designed at all, and with what sociological, cultural or religious input.
To all of you I wish to address my sincere personal thanks and gratitude, as well as that of the entire Steering Committee. We will leave Jakarta with a clearer, more complete and substantially more profound understanding of the important and complex issues which the Award will have to address if it wishes to premiate outstanding housing in the Islamic world of the future. Let me close by wishing you all Allah's blessing, safe journeys, happiness and health.
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