His Highness the Aga Khan (left) talks with Lawrence H. Summers at the launching of http://www.ArchNet.org, the world's largest online resource of historical and contemporary materials on architecture, urbanism, landscape design, and related issues of concern to the Muslim world - and those interested in it. (Staff photo by Stephanie Mitchell)
ArchNet allows scholars, students, and professionals all over the world to gain access to an archive of more than 600,000 images and to communicate with an online community of 6,000 members in 110 countries. Four years in the making, ArchNet is sponsored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
At the launching ceremony, Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers spoke of the growing importance of the Islamic world and the need for "universities like Harvard and M.I.T. to deepen the understanding of things Islamic."
The Aga Khan, hereditary spiritual leader of the world's 15 million Ismaili Muslims and a 1958 graduate of Harvard College, said, "If ArchNet can help bring values to environments, buildings, and contexts that make the quality of life better for future generations than it is today, it will have served its purpose."
The Aga Khan has endowed a number of chairs and programs at Harvard, including those in the History of Art and Architecture, the Graduate School of Design, and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies.
Charles M. Vest, president of M.I.T., said that ArchNet "fulfills the original purpose of the Internet by providing accessibility to teaching resources that are currently unavailable to many universities."
ArchNet makes available a common Web-based slide library to schools of architecture in both the developed and the developing world. It also provides hardware and software, training, and infrastructure support.