As the new Ismaili Jamatkhana’s doors swung wide open yesterday, its congregation welcomed the Plano community.
Gov. Rick Perry and Plano Mayor Pat Evans as well as other city council members and religious leaders of the community were on hand for the opening ceremony.
After Perry and Evans toured the building designed by architect Bill Hidell of Little Elm, they met in the social room to speak about their history and hopeful future with the Ismaili community in Plano. Both Perry and Evans were at the groundbreaking for the Jamatkhana over a year ago and were excited to see that the building was completed.
“The people of Plano are going to be delighted by the design and the intricate elements throughout the building,” Evans said. “It so successfully integrates the traditional Islamic elements and I have to say I saw a little bit of Texas architecture, too.”
Hidell, who first was introduced to the Ismaili culture when he worked at I. M. Pei & Partners office in Iran from 1976 to 1979, said he has enjoyed working with the community and felt more at ease than usual in entrusting them with the building’s care.
“I felt calmer than I usually do at dedications. On past projects, I have felt almost resentful that I was turning the building over to someone else,” Hidell said. “When you live it, you dream it, you sweat the details, you agonize over it for two years,” it’s very difficult to hand it over to someone else. “In the case of today, I’m turning it over to a group of people as passionate about the architecture as I am. They will continue to embellish it.”
Hidell said he wished visitors could have seen the stained glass that would be installed in the Jamatkhana. An elder artisan who uses no lead in the design is laboring over the glass in China, which is likely to be his last project.
“It will literally be the last glass of its kind that’s made. It will be a lost art,” Hidell said.
Hidell said the day went well, and speaking after such a high-profile politician wasn’t so bad.
“Speaking after the governor is very intimidating, but then I realized that speaking after an Aggie can’t intimidate anybody,” he said.
Ismaili craftsmen in Houston and El Paso contributed to the building’s Texas flavor.
Dr. Mahmoud Eboo elegantly articulated his pleasure of being part of the growing Ismaili community in Texas. He said he hopes to continue building on the ideals of balance between the spiritual and temporal mind, by laying a solid and diverse foundation in Texas.
“Texas is home to a very large portion of our community,” Eboo said. “The economic vitality of Texas, the excellent schools and the quality of life in this part of Northern Texas, has encouraged our members to move to Plano.”
Eboo also announced that a high profile center will be opened in Houston. This will be the first Ismaili high-profile center in the United States.
“The High-Profile Center in Houston,” said Eboo, “and those in the process of being built in Glenview, Illinois and Atlanta, Georgia, are spaces that embody those principles and ideals and, God willing, will become ambassadorial spaces for all of us to engage in.”
Perry seemed enthused about the opportunities of diversity that the Ismaili community brings as well. He expressed gratitude to Dr. Eboo and His Highness Aga Khan in their past and future partnership.
Devin Monk contributed to this report.