A view of the Aga Khan University, Karachi. Photograph: AKDN, designned by Thomas Payette

Thomas M. Payette, Renowned Architect, Dies Aged 90: His Design of the Aga Khan University was the Cornerstone of the Award-Winning Firm He Founded


We have learnt with immense sadness, through an obituary posted in Vineyard Gazette, that Thomas M. Payette, FAIA, renowned Cambridge architect and founder of Payette Associates, died on November 12, 2022, at the age of 90.

Raised in East Grand Rapids in Michigan, Tom studied at Michigan State University, where he received a degree in structural engineering. He married Ginny, his sweetheart from his grade school years, in 1954 and they moved to Cambridge, where Tom attended the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He received his Master’s in Architecture in 1960.

Thomas Payette
Thomas Payette (d. November 22, 2022), designed Aga Khan University

The obituary in Vineyard Gazette notes that, after graduating, Tom began working at Markus and Nocka. By 1965, he became president of the firm. It would later become Payette, an international design firm of more than 150 people. His selfless leadership and passion guided Payette into what it is today: an award-winning firm known for its leading design in hospitals, laboratories and universities. Included in its notable work is the Aga Khan Medical Center in Pakistan.

Over the three decades since its initial conception and planning, the Aga Khan University has withstood the test of time, growing and adapting to accommodate new emergent technology, political turmoil and cultural changes….A major force in the heart of the developing world of South Asia, the University represents both a link to the great Islamic academic traditions of the past and a bold, progressive action aimed at providing education and healthcare services to people in Pakistan and the surrounding region


In a short but illuminating piece published on the firm’s website under the title #PayetteForward: Our Roots with Aga Khan, Jennifer Hegarty notes the firm’s association with the Aga Khan University as follows:

“Our 30-year relationship with Aga Khan University has been a cornerstone of the firm we are today, a firm recognized by the AIA with the 2019 Architecture Firm Award. We are proud of the legacy of work we have produced and continue to develop with the Aga Khan University — which was the first of many fruitful international relationships in our portfolio.”

In her post, Jennifer also refers to the original master plan for the Aga Khan University and Thomas Payette’s continuous involvement with the institution in the ensuing years “to furthering the original vision through over 30 years and several master plan updates, keeping their pledge to the founders not only to keep the University true to cultural values, but to recognize the needs of the region in educating young people in the science of medicine and the care of patients.”

We invite our readers to learn more about Thomas Payette’s unique and extraordinary role in the design of the Aga Khan University by reading the following three illustrated pieces on the firm’s website:

Our readers join us in conveying our sincere condolences to all the members of the Payette family. In particular, our Ismaili readers will always remain grateful to Thomas M. Payette for playing such an important role in the planning, design and development of one of the most significant and cherished projects in the life of their beloved 49th Hereditary Imam, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

Date posted: November 23, 2022.

Featured photo at top of post: A view of the Aga Khan University, Karachi. Photograph: AKDN.


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The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.