The first awards of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture were presented on October 23, 1980 at the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, Pakistan. The Aga Khan Award for Architecture, established in 1977 by His Highness the Aga Khan, recognises examples of architectural excellence that encompass contemporary design, social housing, community improvement and development, restoration, re-use, and area conservation, as well as landscaping and environmental issues. Aga Khan Development Network
In his address, His Highness reflected upon the implications of these awards for Islamic culture:
“The first series of Awards in Architecture within the vast community of Muslims are about to be given. It is well to ponder at this time about what they mean, what questions they raise, what implications they may have for the future as well as for our deeper collective concern for the continuous integrity of Islamic architecture and, through architecture, for the whole of Islamic culture.
….our past, our roots, give us the right to say that the choices we make are our choices and that the opportunities we have today will do for the next decades what early Muslims did in Spain, Syria or Iraq, what the Ottoman Turks, Timurids, or Mughals did some five to six hundred years ago in Anatolia, Iran and India: to understand sufficiently well what was available and appropriate in non-Muslim lands in order to create something profoundly Muslim….
We must learn to understand them well, not simply to preserve them as museums of past glories but to feel in every part of them — a stone masonry, a brick dome, a window, an ornament, or a garden arrangement — that unique spirit, that unique way which made these monuments Islamic. Only then will we be able to impart the same spirit to the technical means and to the forms of today.
….As time goes on, more and more of the major environmental and architectural programmes within the Muslim world will utilize the high technology developed for the most part outside the Muslim world. As airports, office buildings, hospitals, schools, industrial complexes, whole new cities grow in numbers and in quality, they will quite naturally satisfy much less easily the originality of our traditions. …
While preserving and nurturing the immense variety of our vernacular architecture, how will we be able to channel the necessity of high technology without becoming its slaves? There are areas, perhaps, such as those of solar energy, of water conservation, of thermic control, or of pre-fabrication, where we can become leaders rather than followers, where our needs can revolutionise the rest of the world.”
Extracts from speech by His Highness the Aga Khan
at the presentation of the first awards of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture
October 23, 19080
Speech printed in Hikmat, February-March, 1986
Compiled by Nimira Dewji