Aga Khan Emphasises Need to Sustain Cultural Pluralism; Islamic Societies Contribute Solutions to Global Challenges

GRANADA, Spain, Oct. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Civil strife, expanding populations, poverty, urban drift, hegemonic claims of traditional orthodoxies and monopolistic tendencies in electronic media can be destructive of world culture and are dangers to tomorrow's human and physical environment, but they need not overwhelm every society.

In the gardens of the Alhambra, one of the most well-known Islamic monuments in the West, His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, explained how "skill, knowledge and vision in the realm of architecture were once a hallmark of Islamic civilisations, and central to the identity of their peoples." Loss of this inheritance of pluralism, "-- the identity it conveys to members of diverse societies, and the originality it represents and stimulates in all of them will," the Aga Khan warned, "impoverish our societies now and into the future." The reawakening of this inheritance and the nurturing of its continuing evolution can show how cultural pluralism can enable the Islamic world to provide innovative solutions to a wide range of contemporary problems.

Addressing culture ministers, diplomats, architects, planners and civic dignitaries in the Generalife gardens in the presence of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain, the Aga Khan spoke during the ceremony held Friday, October 9 to announce the winners of the Seventh Cycle of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

"The awards presented today," said King Juan Carlos, "are a recognition of the meritorious work of all those who have participated in the selected projects. They also involve a commitment to pass on to new generations of architects the experience gained through their elaboration."

An international Master Jury selected seven projects for the 1998 Award. Each, it felt, conveyed a universal message and had particular regional significance.

Rehabilitation of Hebron Old Town
Slum Networking of Indore City, India
Salinger Residence, Selangor Malaysia
Lepers Hospital, Chopda Taluka, India
Tuwaiq Palace, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Alhamra Arts Council, Lahore, Pakistan
Vidhan Bhavan, Bhopal, India

Ethnic and religious conflict, the growth of slums, the devaluation of distinctive traditions, social exclusion, and the dehumanisation of the built environment were among the universal challenges to which answers have emerged from societies in which Muslims live.

In Hebron, communities dealt with sensitivities such as land tenure, cultural identity, and issues of historical consciousness. The Indore project evidences innovative low-cost engineering and enlightened land ordinances. Described as "the daring confrontation between tradition, landscape, and high technology," Tuwaiq Palace is a recreation centre for the Diplomatic Quarter in Riyadh. Lepers Hospital is a sensitively designed response to the needs of outcasts of society. Alhamra Arts Council (a cultural complex) incorporates innovative use of indigenous materials and traditional forms. Local art and architectural traditions are integrated in a very "humanised" modern building in the Madhya Pradesh State Assembly, Vidhan Bhavan.

The Award, with a prize fund totalling US$500,000, recognises examples of architectural excellence in areas such as contemporary design, social housing, restoration, environmental and landscape design and community improvement in societies around the world in which Muslims have a significant presence.

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture is an endeavour of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture which co-ordinates the cultural activities of the Aga Khan Development Network. The Aga Khan Development Network is a group of non-denominational private development agencies and institutions with specific mandates that range from health and education to rural development, culture, the built environment and the promotion of private sector enterprise. The agencies, working together, seek to empower communities and individuals, often in disadvantaged circumstances, to improve living conditions and opportunities. The Network's underlying impulse is the ethic of compassion for the vulnerable in society and its agencies and institutions work for the common good of all citizens, regardless of their origin, gender or religion.

The Aga Khan, who is accompanied by the Begum Aga Khan, will depart from Granada on Sunday.

SOURCE Aiglemont Information Department

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