World News

Aga Khan, MIT, Harvard to launch architectural Web site

Shiraz Allibhai, managing director of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning (left) and Nasser O. Rabbat, Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Architecture at MIT (right) pose in Rabbat's office at MIT, in Cambridge, Mass., Sept 25. AP

BOSTON (AP) - An Islamic spiritual leader has united with Harvard, MIT and six Middle Eastern universities to create a Web site its creators hope will advance architecture throughout the Islamic world.

The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims, also hopes to link war-torn places such as Sarajevo and Kabul to the Web, empower women and foster East-West dialogue through the site, which took four years to create.

The site,, includes 600,000 archived images, counts 6,000 members in 110 countries and links architecture schools around the world, eliminating the need for education centers in the developing world to build big libraries. The site officially debut Friday at a ceremony with the Aga Khan and the presidents of Harvard and MIT.

"This is not simply a resource for a narrow academic community," said Amyn Ahamed of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. "This is a resource for a practitioner, for students, for planners and people living in an environment where their access to knowledge and resources and expertise are limited."

Architects and academics will contribute their own findings and research to the site, which hosts online forums and chat rooms. Supporting Islamic architecture - long a source of great pride for Muslims - is nothing new for the Aga Khan, who for 25 years has given a triennial award worth $500,000 to Islamic architects.