The Plaza Hotel, October 25, 1996
New York, N.Y.
Your Highness, M. David-Weill, Mrs. Buckley, honored guests. Thank you for this opportunity to welcome such a distinguished gathering to honor a truly notable cultural figure.
His Highness the Aga Khan has labored throughout his career to improve the lives of Islamic peoples throughout the world. In doing so, he has also worked to bridge divisions between the Muslim world and other communities, reminding us that we cannot regard Islamic societies as separate from the larger community of nations. This work is especially vital today, as we face conflicts-between nations and between culture-as complex and violent as any in history.
Most importantly, however, we have gathered today to honor His Highness' commitment to the preservation and renewal of societies through architecture and design. Many development programs and agencies devote resources to international development through monetary and other humanitarian aid. But the Aga Khan's work, through his Award for Architecture, is remarkable in treating design as a fundamental and enduring expression of a society's distinct cultural identity. Through his work, the Aga Khan has created constructive channels for dialogue, built upon the foundations of history, tradition, and cultural heritage.
The World Monuments Fund has worked forcefully toward similar goals throughout its thirty-year history and has made great progress. I was deeply honored when Marilyn Perry asked me to serve as Co-Chairman of the International Committee of Honor of the new World Monuments Watch program. I believe deeply in the international significance of this work and readily agreed to serve beside my associate and friend, His Excellency Javier Perez de Cuellar. While the former Secretary General was unfortunately unable to join us here today, I know that he strongly supports the work of the World Monuments Watch program and all that it represents. Our endeavour is directed not only toward the physical conservation of endangered architecture, but also to underscoring the message that architecture is of central importance. By preserving architecture and other works of art, whether ancient or modern, we preserve the very fabric of our civilization. The survival of our art, however, depends on us. I am delighted that you will join the World Monuments Fund and His Highness The Aga Khan in this effort.
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