India Post: Aga Khan Historic Cities Program exhibition in University of California Berkeley

BERKELEY: The University of California’s College of Environmental Design (CED) in Berkeley was an appropriate setting for a special viewing of the Aga Khan Historic Cities Program (HCP) between November 28- December

1.The seventeen panels and two models depicted eleven projects in eight countries spanning Africa, Asia and the Middle East. CED’s Dean Fraker observed, “It is an amazing exhibition and what I have loved about walking through and seeing the work, it really underscores for me, the extent to which the history of architecture is much more diverse culturally than was ever taught.” HCP was established by the Aga Khan in 1992 to undertake the restoration of historic structures, improve public spaces and rehabilitate urban areas in ways that spark economic and social development and preserve and promote cultural assets.

This is achieved, not just through restoration of culturally and historically significant monuments but through a program of revitalization of the area surrounding these sites. HCP projects focus on improving local living conditions, infrastructure and involving local community members, including training of local artisans and tradesmen and building of local institutional capacity. HCP is part of the commemoration of the Aga Khan’s Golden Jubilee, which marks 50 years of his Imamat at the leader of the Ismaili Muslim community.

Under the aegis of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) the HCP is an international exhibition designed to inform about the work of several featured projects undergoing restoration, and spurring community development, and more importantly hope, in areas that most need it. One of the exhibition’s featured projects is the revitalization of the 30 acre gardens, pathways, fountains and water channels of the chahâr-bâgh, or four-part paradise garden surrounding the tomb of the second Mughal Emperor, Humayun, in New Delhi. As one of the 23

World Heritage Sites in India, Humayun’s Tomb is the first of the monumental mausoleums to be built in the country; the chahâr-bâgh, or four-part paradise garden, is the earliest existing example of the Mughal garden and the tomb and gardens are considered one of the precursors of the Taj Mahal. As noted by the Aga Khan during the inauguration of the restoration, “the Tomb and its gardens were an expression of the love and respect borne towards the Emperor Humayun by his son, Akbar and widow, Haji Begum. The chahar-bagh was more than a pleasure garden.

In the discipline and order of its landscaped geometry, its octagonal or rectangular pools, its selection of favorite plants and trees, it was an attempt to create transcendent perfection – a glimpse of paradise on earth.

“The prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture was held in its grounds in 2004 and work by HCP continues in the adjoining Nizamuddin neighborhood to improve local living conditions by providing technical assistance to implement community-based socio-economic initiatives.The exhibition, which includes the massive 74 acre Al-Azhar Park in Cairo, restoration of mosques in Mali, work on the Citadel of Aleppo and ancient forts in Syria and projects in Afghanistan, underscores that the Historic Cities revitalization projects are not just about replacing stones or replanting lawns.

The projects are underpinned by careful research, drawing upon many disciplines and benefiting from, and contributing to, the skills of local artisans. They also convey the rich diversity in heritage of architecture and culture present in Muslim societies.

The Exhibition will have been seen in many cities around the USA, including the Los Angeles City Hall and the State Capitol building in Austin, before moving on to Canada.

India Post News Service

Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

One thought

  1. Dear Sir,
    I am Hashem Aghakhani, one of the Ismailis in Iran. I have studied in M.A of conversation and restoration of historical buildings and sites in one of the best universities of Iran. I eagerly want to continue my education in this field (PHD).

    Best regards
    Ya ALI madad


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