Royal Architectural Institute Awards Gold Medal to 49th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, for his contribution to Canadian architecture

Report prepared and compiled by Abdulmalik Merchant
Publisher-editor, Simerg.com

 (l to r) Seated -- Princess Zahra Aga Khan (daughter, His Highness the Aga Khan), George Baird (RAIC 2010 Gold Award Recipient), His Highness the Aga Khan (RAIC 2013 Gold Award Recipient), Paul E. Frank (RAIC President), Jim McKee (RAIC Executive Director); Standing -- Samuel Oghale Oboh (RAIC Regional Director Alberta/North West Territories), Barry Johns (Chancellor – College of Fellows); Jim McKee (RAIC, Executive Director), David Craddock (RAIC Immediate Past President), Wayne De Angelis (RAIC First Vice-President/President-Elect), Jean-Pierre Pelletier (RAIC Regional Director, Québec). Photo:  © AKDN/Farhez Rayani

(l to r) Seated — Princess Zahra Aga Khan (daughter, His Highness the Aga Khan), George Baird (RAIC 2010 Gold Award Recipient), His Highness the Aga Khan (RAIC 2013 Gold Award Recipient), Paul E. Frank (RAIC President), Jim McKee (RAIC Executive Director); Standing — Samuel Oghale Oboh (RAIC Regional Director Alberta/North West Territories), Barry Johns (Chancellor – College of Fellows); David Craddock (RAIC Immediate Past President), Wayne De Angelis (RAIC First Vice-President/President-Elect), Jean-Pierre Pelletier (RAIC Regional Director, Québec). Photo: © AKDN/Farhez Rayani.

His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of Ismaili Muslims, who is the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) became the 30th recipient of Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s coveted Gold Medal. The Ismaili Imam joined an elite list of outstanding architects and individuals who have contributed to Canadian architecture including the world-renowned British born landscape architect Peter Cardew, now based in Vancouver, who received the medal in 2012, Moshe Safdie, builder of the National Art Gallery of Canada, as well as the Right Honourable Vincent Massey, who was the 61st Governor General of Canada from 1952 until 1959 and the second recipient of the medal in 1968. RAIC’s first medal was presented in 1967 to Mayor Jean Drapeau who served two terms as Mayor of Montreal.

Four of the thirty recipients of the RAIC Gold Medal since the awards began in 1967 - (l to r) His Highness the Aga Khan (2013), Moshe Safdie (1995), the Right Honourable Vincent Massey (1968), and Mayor Jean Drapeau (1967.

Four of the thirty recipients of the RAIC Gold Medal since the awards began in 1967 – (l to r) His Highness the Aga Khan (2013), Moshe Safdie (1995), the Right Honourable Vincent Massey (1968), and Mayor Jean Drapeau (1967).

The official ceremony granting the 2013 RAIC Gold Medal took place at the pleasant surroundings of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building on Sussex Drive, part of the National Capital Region’s ceremonial route. The choice of the location of the ceremony reinforced the nomination of His Highness the Aga Khan for the award, paying homage to his extraordinary achievements using architecture as an instrument to further peaceful and sustainable community around the world. The building itself along with His Highness the Aga Khan’s other iconic public and spiritual spaces are a significant contribution to Canadian architecture, which the Gold Medal recognizes.

The char-bagh (garden) at the rear of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building seen covered with snow. Ottawa had heavy wet snow on Tuesday November 26, 2013, the day preceding the presentation of the RAIC Gold Medal to His Highness the Aga Khan for his significant contribution to Canadian architecture. Photo: © AKDN/Mo Govindji.

The char-bagh (garden) at the rear of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building seen covered with snow. Ottawa had heavy wet snow on Tuesday November 26, 2013, the day preceding the presentation of the RAIC Gold Medal to His Highness the Aga Khan for his significant contribution to Canadian architecture. Photo: © AKDN/Mo Govindji.

The event, attended by around 200 invited guests, commenced exactly at 5:50pm in the Main Hall of the Delegation Building with the entrance of some of the executives members of RAIC as well as Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Her Excellency Adrienne Clarkson. The invited guests stood up respectfully as His Highness the Aga Khan accompanied by the President of RAIC entered the hall.

Please click on image to watch a 7 minute video representing some of the work of His Highness the Aga Khan. You will be taken to the website of RAIF. Collage by simerg from video.

Please click on image to watch an excellent 7 minute video representing some of the work of His Highness the Aga Khan. You will be taken to the website of RAIC. Photo collage by simerg from video.

The ceremony itself lasted approximately 45 minutes. First, a welcome message was delivered by Jim McKee, the Executive Director of RAIC, who introduced the Award itself and the 2013 recipient, His Highness. An informative seven minute video was shown highlighting the Aga Khan’s architectural projects through the years and around the world which serve both the Ismaili community and the Aga Khan Development Network’s activities as well as some projects that have won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture during the past forty years.

George Baird, recipient of the 2010 Gold Medal, reads the citation for the 2013 RAIC Gold Medal Award to His Highness at the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building in Ottawa, as the Ismaili Imam and Paul Frank, the RAIC President, look on. Approximately 200 invited guests attended the ceremony on November 27, 2013. Photo: © AKDN/Mo Govindji.

George Baird, recipient of the 2010 Gold Medal, reads the citation for the 2013 RAIC Gold Medal Award to His Highness at the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building in Ottawa, as the Ismaili Imam and Paul Frank, the RAIC President, look on. Approximately 200 invited guests attended the ceremony on November 27, 2013. Photo: © AKDN/Mo Govindji.

The citation for the award was delivered by George Baird, one of Canada’s most celebrated architects and architect educators who was the recipient of the RAIC Gold Medal in 2010. Author of works such as Alvar Aalto (1969), The Space of Appearance (1995) and Public Space (2011),  in his citation Baird noted “the astonishing breadth and depth of various organizations that make up the Aga Khan Development Network” and described numerous projects around the world which had offered him a sound grasp of the work of the Ismaili Imam – from the Serena Hotels and the Stone Town in East Africa to the Aga Khan Program at Harvard University.

He stated that he responded with great enthusiasm about nominating His Highness for the Gold Medal. When he was approached by the RAIC to read the citation, he said that he “leapt at the chance”.

The Gold Medal is the highest honour bestowed by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. It is awarded each year to an individual(s) recognizing significant contribution to Canadian architecture.

The Gold Medal is the highest honour bestowed by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. It is awarded each year to an individual or group recognizing significant contribution to Canadian architecture.

 

“In recognizing His Highness we cite his remarkable accomplishments in various aspects in the field of architecture as part of his broader social and economic development work, particularly the specialized cultural programming undertaken through the Aga Khan Trust for Culture….” — excerpt from ceremony programme

His Highness the Aga Khan being congratulated by RAIC President, Paul E. Frank, as he is presented with the 2013 Gold Medal for his significant contribution to Canadian architecture. Photo: © AKDN/Farhez Rayani.

His Highness the Aga Khan being congratulated by RAIC President, Paul E. Frank, as he is presented with the 2013 Gold Medal for his significant contribution to Canadian architecture. Photo: © AKDN/Farhez Rayani.

 

“The selection of His Highness the Aga Khan as recipient of RAICS’s highest honour – its Gold Medal – marks the first time in more than 30 years that a non-architect has been chosen and recognizes the Aga Khan’s extraordinary achievements…” — excerpt from ceremony programme

Executive members of the RAIC and Ismaili leaders, at right, Vazir Shafik Sachedina and Canada's Aga Khan Council President, Malik Talib, applaud as His Highness the Aga Khan is presented with the 2013 RAIC Gold Medal. Photo: © AKDN/Mo Govindji.

Executive members of the RAIC and Ismaili leaders Shafik Sachedina and Malik Talib, at right, applaud as His Highness the Aga Khan is presented with the 2013 RAIC Gold Medal. Photo: © AKDN/Mo Govindji.

(l to r) - George Baird, the 2010 recipient of the coveted RAIC Gold Medal, His Highness the Aga Khan with the 2013 medal presented to him, and Paul E. Frank, the President of RAIC. Photo: © AKDN/Farhez Rayani.

(l to r) – George Baird, the 2010 recipient of the coveted RAIC Gold Medal, His Highness the Aga Khan with the 2013 medal presented to him, and Paul E. Frank, the President of RAIC. Photo: © AKDN/Farhez Rayani.

Following the presentation ceremony, a reception was held at the Delegation Building’s library and display area.

The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson (left), Canada's 26th Governor General from 1999-2005, and Princess Zahra Aga Khan, daughter of His Highness the Aga Khan, pictured as they leave for the reception ceremony after the Gold Medal Award ceremony. Photo: © AKDN/Mo Govindji.

The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson (left), Canada’s 26th Governor General from 1999-2005, and Princess Zahra Aga Khan, daughter of His Highness the Aga Khan, pictured as they leave for the reception ceremony after the Gold Medal Award ceremony. Photo: © AKDN/Mo Govindji.

_____________

EXCERPTS FROM HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN’S REMARKS MADE UPON ACCEPTING THE 2013 GOLD MEDAL FROM THE ROYAL ARCHITECTURAL INSTITUTE OF CANADA

His Highness the Aga Khan delivering his acceptance speech following the presentation of the 2013 RAIC Gold Medal for his significant contribution to Canadian architecture. Photo: © AKDN/Farhez Rayani

His Highness the Aga Khan delivering his acceptance speech following the presentation of the 2013 RAIC Gold Medal for his significant contribution to Canadian architecture. Photo: © AKDN/Farhez Rayani.

I. CANADIAN CITIZEN

On June 19, 2009,  the House of Commons voted unanimously to bestow Honorary Canadian citizenship on his Highness the Aga Khan. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is seen here presenting the Ismaili Imam with the  Citizenship during the foundation ceremony in Toronto of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park. Photo: The website of the Prime Minister of Canada.

On June 19, 2009, the House of Commons voted unanimously to bestow Honorary Canadian citizenship on his Highness the Aga Khan. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is seen here presenting the 49th Ismaili Imam with the Citizenship during the foundation ceremony in Toronto of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park. Photo: The website of the Prime Minister of Canada.

“You may know that I recently became a citizen of Canada – at the gracious invitation of the Canadian government. That honour made me feel even more closely a part of the Canadian family – even as this honour today makes me feel more closely a member of Canada’s architectural family.”

The Canadian Maple Leaf flag at either end with the flags of Ontario and the striped red and green flag of the Ismaili Imam located at the east front end of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building located on Sussex Drive in Ottawa. The RAIC presented a gold medal to His Highness the Aga Khan for his significant contribution to Canadian architecture. Iconic Ismaili Imamat buildings in Canada include the Delegation Building (Ottawa, 2008), the Ismaili Centre (Burnaby, 1985), the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park (all in Toronto, expected to open in 2014), and the public parks in Edmonton and Vancouver (both forthcoming). In addition, the old War Museum on Sussex Drive in Ottawa will host the Centre of Pluralism. The Ismaili community has other fine houses of worship known as Jamatkhanas in many cities and town across Canada. Photo: © AKDN/Mo Govindji.

The Canadian Maple Leaf flag at either end with the flags of Ontario and the striped red and green flag of the Ismaili Imam located at the east front end of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building located on Sussex Drive in Ottawa. The RAIC presented a gold medal to His Highness the Aga Khan for his significant contribution to Canadian architecture. Iconic Ismaili Imamat buildings in Canada include the Delegation Building (Ottawa, 2008), the Ismaili Centre (Burnaby, 1985), the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park (all in Toronto, expected to open in 2014), and the public parks in Edmonton and Vancouver (both forthcoming). In addition, the old War Museum on Sussex Drive in Ottawa will host the Global Centre of Pluralism. The Ismaili community has other fine places of worship and congregation known as Jamatkhanas in many cities and town across Canada. Photo: © AKDN/Mo Govindji.

II. THE ROLE OF THE IMAM

“In Islam, the role of an Imam is not limited to the domain of faith. It also includes a deep engagement in the world, in all of the wide and complex issues that affect our quality of life. Among those issues, not many have more impact than architecture and the buildings in which we spend, at all ages, so many days and nights of our lives.”

III. CANADIAN PROJECTS AND THEIR ARCHITECTS

(a) Background – “an ugly experience of ethnic cleansing”

Asian refugees boarding a plane at Kampala's Entebbe airport after Idi Amin's edict in 1972 cleansing Uganda of its Asian citizens and residents. Photo: Government of Canada archives.

Asian refugees boarding a plane at Kampala’s Entebbe airport after Idi Amin’s edict in 1972 cleansing Uganda of its Asian citizens and residents. Photo: Government of Canada archives.

“What I would like to describe in particular this evening, however, is my experience with Canadian architecture. The story goes back to 1972, when the then President of Uganda, Marshall Idi Amin, expelled all the Asians from Uganda no matter what their faith, their citizenship, or position in society. Many thousands left Uganda in a matter of days; most took nothing more with them than their brains and the languages they spoke. Most members of my community, the Ismailis, came to Canada, while a minority who had retained their British citizenship at Ugandan independence went to the United Kingdom. It was one of the ugliest experiences of ethnic cleansing in those times.

“The leaders of the Ismaili communities in the UK and Canada consulted with one another and with me as to how to respond to this forced migration. There was unanimity that wherever we would settle we would never become a demotivated, marginalized minority and that we would, instead, demonstrate the will and the capacity to rebuild our future. We therefore decided to build new spaces for the gathering of our communities, and for the practice of their faith, in the countries that were welcoming us.”

(b) Bruno Freschi and the Burnaby Ismaili Centre

Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre, Foundation Ceremony, July 26 1982. Bruno Freschi (left) with Honourable Henry Bell-Irving and His Highness the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan in his speech said: "This will be a place of congregation, of order, of peace, of prayer, of hope, of humility, and of brotherhood. From it should come forth those thoughts, those sentiments, those attitudes which bind men together and which unite."

Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre, Foundation Ceremony, July 26 1982. Bruno Freschi (left) with Honourable Henry Bell-Irving and His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Ismaili Imam. The Aga Khan in his foundation ceremony speech said: “This will be a place of congregation, of order, of peace, of prayer, of hope, of humility, and of brotherhood. From it should come forth those thoughts, those sentiments, those attitudes which bind men together and which unite.” Photo: Bruno Freschi Collection.

“We decided to build….in our own, varied architectural languages….adapting them to the requirements of younger generations, and applying them as well, to the open spaces around our new buildings.

“In taking this approach, we were comforted to know that Canada welcomed a pluralistic approach to questions of cultural continuity. We knew, for example, that Bruno Freschi, who designed the Ismaili Centre in Vancouver, had earlier designed a gurdwara, a Sikh place of worship. He reflected Canada’s practice of drawing strength from cultural diversity, as well as from universal inspirations such as faith and family, and the celebration of great events and great people. This combined embrace of both the particular and the universal has made Canada one of the most respected pluralist societies in today’s heavily fractured world.”

(c) Charles Correa and the new Toronto Ismaili Centre

Prince Amyn Aga Khan, younger brother of His Highness the Aga Khan, presents a gift to Professor Charles Correa at the Ismaili Centre in London, England, in recognition of his long-standing partnership with the Aga Khan Development Network. Photo: Al-Nur Sunderji

Prince Amyn Aga Khan, younger brother of His Highness the Aga Khan, presents a gift to Professor Charles Correa at the Ismaili Centre in London, England, in recognition of his long-standing partnership with the Aga Khan Development Network. Photo: Al-Nur Sunderji.

“We continue to build in Canada. Soon a second Ismaili Centre, now nearing completion in Toronto, will join the first one in Vancouver, making Canada the only country in the foreseeable future with two Ismaili Centres, one in the West and another in the East. For this work, we retained another great architect, Charles Correa, who was born into a Christian family that originally lived in Goa. He, too, has designed for many faiths, including Hindu and Christian.”

(d) Fumihiko Maki and the Aga Khan Museum

His Highness the Aga Khan with architect Fumihiko Maki at an Aga Khan Museum Exhibition held at the Louvre in 2007. The renowned Japanese architect has served twice on the Master Jury of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, and designed both the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building in Ottawa which was opened in 2008 and the new Aga Khan Museum in Toronto expected to open in 2014. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte

His Highness the Aga Khan with architect Fumihiko Maki at an Aga Khan Museum Exhibition held at the Louvre in 2007. The renowned Japanese architect has served twice on the Master Jury of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, and designed both the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building in Ottawa which was opened in 2008 and the new Aga Khan Museum in Toronto expected to open in 2014. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte.

“The story is similar for another new Toronto building, The Aga Khan Museum. It has been designed by a remarkable international partnership with one of the great Japanese professionals, Fumihiko Maki, and a major Canadian firm, Moriyama and Teshima.”

IV. ISLAM: SOURCE OF INSPIRATION

The magnificent mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo, Egypt, which His Highness the Aga Khan has mentioned as among his favourite monuments in Islamic history. Photo: Archnet.org.

The magnificent mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo, Egypt, which His Highness the Aga Khan has mentioned as among his favourite monuments in Islamic history. Photo: Archnet.org.

“In all this work we continue, of course, to honor our Islamic architectural inheritance. That inheritance has been shaped by many forces – climate, accessible building materials, available technologies and others. But I believe that the Islamic faith has played a particular role in the development of Islamic architectural expression. For our faith constantly reminds us to observe and be thankful for the beauty of the world and the universe around us, and our responsibility and obligation, as good stewards of God’s creation, to leave the world in a better condition than we found it.”

V. OUR SPACES SHAPE OUR LIVES

The Aga Khan University and Medical Centre in Karachi built by His Highness the Aga Khan. It pursues excellence in learning to expand minds, and provides outstanding medical facilities to restore health.

The Aga Khan University and Medical Centre in Karachi built by His Highness the Aga Khan pursues excellence in learning to expand minds, and provides outstanding medical facilities to restore health.

“Is it not true that the quality of our lives is fundamentally shaped by the spaces in which we live, spaces that provide physical security, and spaces where we seek spiritual enrichment? They are spaces where we work, and where we pause from work; where we expand our minds and restore our health, places where we congregate and where we meditate; and they are places where we are born, as well as places of final rest.

“Some are spaces we may only visit briefly – but where we learn how others live – from the extremes of abject poverty, for example, to the extremes of great wealth.”

VI. ARCHITECTURE OF PLURALISM

“The language of architecture speaks in different idioms, but it also provides powerful connections, resonating in landscapes both urban and rural, global and local, monumental and humble, secular and spiritual. An “Architecture of Pluralism” is one that will encourage all of us to listen to one another and to learn from one another, with a deep sense of humility and a realization that diversity itself is a gift of the Divine.”

VII. THE WORK OF RAIC AND RECOGNITION WITH A GOLD MEDAL

The Gold Medal is the highest honour bestowed by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. It is awarded each year to an individual(s) recognizing significant contribution to Canadian architecture. Photo: Mo Govindji/AKDN.

The Gold Medal is the highest honour bestowed by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. It is awarded each year to an individual(s) recognizing significant contribution to Canadian architecture. Photo: Mo Govindji/AKDN.

“The future will present us with ever-evolving architectural challenges – urbanization, water management, air pollution, protection from manmade and natural hazards and the efficient use of limited resources. Men and women of recognized talent worldwide must be mobilized to meet these challenges – as the RAIC has done so impressively, including your efforts to attract “Broadly Experienced Foreign Architects” – the B-E-F-A programme. Not only have you been able to streamline the licensing here of internationally trained architects, but you have also reaffirmed a global ethic of openness and cooperation.

“The work that you do at the RAIC is more than simply mattering. You are shaping forces that influence the essence of human life. And this is the fundamental reason that I am so deeply honoured by your recognizing me today.”

Date posted: Monday, December 2, 2013.

Note: All speech excerpts of His Highness the Aga Khan are from the website of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). Copyright © His Highness the Aga Khan.

Photos and all other copyright material published on this website may not be reproduced without the written permission from the original copyright holders.

__________________

Simerg acknowledges and appreciates the following organizations for making speeches and photos available for this piece. Please visit their respective websites for complete speeches, photos as well as videos and more details:

1. Theismaili.org – the official website of the Ismaili community, please click on www.theismaili.org;
2. The Aga Khan Development Network, please click on www.akdn.org; and
3. The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, please click on www.raic.org.

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5 thoughts on “Royal Architectural Institute Awards Gold Medal to 49th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, for his contribution to Canadian architecture

  1. This presentation precisely shows the enormous struggle of His Highness the Aga Khan to bring and build today’s Islamic world for its distorted shape to a refined definition. I also say that the world recognizes the insight of Islamic civilization via efforts of His Highness. Thank You Ya Imam for making us as a part of You.

  2. Bravo for this wonderful presentation!Mashaallah!

    There is a well-known Hadith of Our Beloved Prophet(s) about Hazrat Murtaza Ali(a):

    If all the trees on the earth were pens, and all the sea (were ink) they would still not be able to explain all the Noble Qualities of Ali ibn Abi Talib(a)!!!

    Famous Ismaili Hujjat Nasir Khusraw says in one of his books,that Imam of the Time looks upon the world 30,000 different ways every day.All we Ismailis and the rest of the world should listen,listen,listen to what Imam says and follow what initiative He thinks is best!

    اللّهُمّ صَلّ عَلَى مُحَمّدٍ وَآلِ مُحَمّدٍ
    اللّهُمّ صَلّ عَلَى مُحَمّدٍ وَآلِ مُحَمّدٍ
    اللّهُمّ صَلّ عَلَى مُحَمّدٍ وَآلِ مُحَمّدٍ
    اللّهُمّ صَلّ عَلَى مُحَمّدٍ وَآلِ مُحَمّدٍ
    اللّهُمّ صَلّ عَلَى مُحَمّدٍ وَآلِ مُحَمّدٍ

    Wassalam

  3. His Highness The Aga Khan is working so hard towards a better and peaceful world that we cannot imagine and he deserves every medal, award, degree, doctorate, prize that there is. His contribution around the world in all areas of human endeavour to make the world a better place are remarkable and need to be emulated by hundreds of others who have the capacity to do so.

  4. A very good and informative presentation of the gold ward ceremony. The brevity of the piece with its numerous photos interpersed with text made it delightful reading

  5. Very informative presentation. Appreciate the closeup of the medal, the names and past medal winners and it is helpful to have a framework and background which you have shared.
    The photograph of the charbagh that day also sets the stage. Our Imam travels in all weather, and circumstances. How can we appreciate that but by thinking about his actions, his words and his example. Thankyou.

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