Khaleej Times Online
24 October 2003

By a staff reporter

Aga Khan Trust serving humanity worldwide

DUBAI - By encouraging and supporting revitalisation of Islam's heritage across many cultures in which it is expressed, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) has been able to help generate new resources, talent and energy that is being recognised and has an impact far beyond the Islamic world, said Dr Suha Ozkan, Secretary-General of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Dr Ozkan was delivering a presentation at the City Hall at Dubai Municipality's Headquarters on Wednesday to a distinguished audience of civic dignitaries, diplomats, academics, professionals, students and media on the breadth of endeavours launched by the Aga Khan to improve understanding of the cultural heritage of Islam. Qassim Sultan, Director-General of Dubai Municipality was the guest of honour on the occasion.

Placing great emphasis on the effort to recognise excellence in the built environment of Muslim societies, Dr Ozkan highlighted achievements of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC).

Beginning with its oldest programme, the Award for Architecture, he used a series of dramatic visuals to explain the breadth of the award's scope. From housing for the poorest to the conservation of historic cities and the application of technology in bio-climatic buildings, the innovation and imagination exhibited by award-winning projects was testimony to the remarkable resources and talent of the Muslim world.

Touching on other initiatives of the AKTC, Dr Ozkan explained how ArchNet, "a virtual electronic community on the Internet, created a readily accessible academic resource on architecture and planning."

Established in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ArchNet, Dr Ozkan noted, "has strengthened the teaching and research capability of its partner schools which include renowned universities in the region."

He also described the social and economic impact of a number of major revitalisation projects of the Trust's Historic Cities Support Programme. "These range from restored buildings and green spaces in the Stone Town of Zanzibar and the city of Mostar in Bosnia to three citadels in Syria, fortresses in Northern Pakistan and a 33-hectare park and related social development projects on the edge of historic Cairo," Dr Ozkan said.

He provided an overview of the rehabilitation of specific monuments, gardens and public spaces in Kabul. Reviving ancient architectural techniques was giving life back to a city emerging out of the rubble of civil conflict.

Dr Ozkan also noted that the trust had also become active in the preservation and promotion of musical traditions of the Silk Route through its Music Initiative for Central Asia. The Trust has also been involved, he said, in developing a humanities curriculum for universities in Central Asia.

Concluding his presentation, Dr Ozkan observed that a number of projects commissioned by the Aga Khan as patron were themselves beginning to emerge as landmark buildings and spaces.

"Signature architects such as Fumihiko Maki, Arato Isozaki, Charles Correa, Ramesh Khosla, Rami El Dahan and Raj Rewal were amongst those being consulted on the development of a variety of spaces for cultural and educational use.

These included Ismaili centres being developed in Dubai, Toronto and Dushanbe to complement those prominently located in London, Lisbon and Vancouver," he commented.

Dr Ozkan added that they also included exciting new school projects planned in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Central Asia and university campuses under development in lesser-known mountain towns of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic.