Islamic Architecture Speeches
Speech by His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan
Concluding Remarks at the Fifth Seminar in the Series "Architectural Transformations in the Islamic World" of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture Amman, Jordan, May 7, 1980
After all of the formal and informal discussions and today's summary remarks, there is very little for me to say. I think I should begin by expressing again my gratitude to His Majesty the King, to His Royal Highness the Crown Prince and to the government of Jordan for all the assistance and support they have given us. Much has been said at the seminar about influencing decision makers, and there are no more important decision makers in Jordan than the King, the Crown Prince, the Prime Minister and the cabinet ministers who attended the opening session. This is the first time in the five pre-Award seminars that the head of state has personally opened the seminar, and I think this alone demands an expression of gratitude and admiration. The Crown Prince himself presided over two full days of our meetings, and also took time to speak to us about central issues concerning the conservation of Islamic buildings and the Islamic heritage. I sincerely hope that the example set here in Jordan will be emulated in the Islamic countries in which we hold future seminars.
At one point during the seminar I was concerned that we were moving in the direction of architecture for architecture's sake, and moving away from the fundamental concerns which affect the Islamic world today. Only a very small part of that world is wealthy; vast numbers of its population are poor. This has been said before but it deserves reemphasis, and I was particularly gratified that all three workshops made statements encouraging this priority and indicating directions for Islamic architecture in the future. In addition, not one of them ignored the realities of the Islamic world of today.
Much was said during this seminar about communication. I have no doubt that communication is central to everything we are trying to achieve, and I am very grateful to important members of the architectural and general media for their participation in this seminar. But I am concerned that communication might be interpreted as centralization. If we look at Islamic history, we find that great buildings were simultaneously built all over the Islamic empire, even when mass communication was practically new. This is one of the reasons we have resisted and will continue to resist anything which would lead us in the direction of creating a school. The Islamic countries have their own schools of architecture, complete with men of talent and creativity. It is much more important that the Aga Khan Award encourage the strengthening of these schools and the support of their graduates, particularly the younger architects who in a sense control the destiny of the Islamic architectural world of the future. This is an issue of primary concern to me, and one which has been raised many times.
I would like to close the seminar by saying that this has, in my view at least, been one of the most creative seminars we have had. I think we have achieved a sense of opportunity but, even more difficult and perhaps more important, have given that opportunity some direction, some idea of routes which could be taken in the future. We have not sought to impose any formal guidelines, but aim at contributing to the thought, imagination and creativity which are required if we want to improve the future built environments of Islamic countries.