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Old April 4th, 2013, 11:12 AM   #1
rahim.katchi
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Ismaili Centres around the World

The Ismaili Centres are symbolic markers of the permanent presence and core values of Ismaili communities around the world. Incorporating spaces for social and cultural gatherings, intellectual engagement and reflection, as well as spiritual contemplation, they are bridges of friendship and understanding, and serve to enhance relationships among faith communities, government and civil society.

"The Ismaili Centres are symbolic markers of the permanent presence and core values of Ismaili communities around the world. Incorporating spaces for social and cultural gatherings, intellectual engagement and reflection, as well as spiritual contemplation, they are bridges of friendship and understanding, and serve to enhance relationships among faith communities, government and civil society." H.H The Aga Khan.

As articulated by H.H The Aga Khan at the Foundation Ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, Dubai, the Ismaili Centres belong to the historic category of jamatkhana. They are symbolic markers of the permanent presence of the Ismaili community in the regions in which they are established. Architecturally unique, each building incorporates spaces for social and cultural gatherings, intellectual engagement and reflection, as well as spiritual contemplation. They serve as ambassadorial hubs, representing the Ismaili community’s attitude towards the Muslim faith and modern life, while extending a hand of friendship and understanding to enhance relationships among faith communities, government and civil society.

Through their design and function, the Ismaili Centres reflect a mood of humility, forward outlook, friendship and dialogue. They facilitate the promotion of cultural, educational and social programmes from the broadest, non-denominational perspectives within the ethical framework of Islam. A central purpose of the Ismaili Centres is to encourage mutual exchanges and understanding between diverse peoples, communities and faiths. The Centres are, therefore, not only places for spiritual search, but also spaces for broadening intellectual horizons and fostering an appreciation of pluralism.

Conceived in the ethic of respect for human dignity, the Ismaili Centres seek to empathise with, and to expand our intellectual, cultural and moral horizons. They are each a safeguard and a symbol of the core values of the Ismaili Muslim community.

www.theismaili.org

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Old April 4th, 2013, 11:21 AM   #2
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Ismaili Centre, London

In 1951, a religious, cultural and social centre was established by the Ismaili community at Kensington Court, and in 1957 it was moved to Palace Gate in the Borough of Kensington. However, in order to meet the increased needs of the growing community, a majority of whom had settled in or around London, a site for a new centre was acquired on Cromwell Road.

Plans for this site, reflecting the Ismaili community’s requirements for a place of worship as well as a place of gathering, were submitted in tender to the Greater London Council. Final allocation of the site was adjudged on the basis of appropriateness of use, quality of design and price tendered.

At a ceremony on 6 September 1979, Lord Soames, the then Lord President of the Council, laid the foundation stone of the Centre in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan. Construction on the site began in July 1980, and the Ismaili Centre, London was opened by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on 24 April 1985 before the Aga Khan, government leaders, diplomats and leaders of the Ismaili community from around the world.


An aerial view of the Ismaili Centre, London. Photo: Sadru Verjee

www.theismaili.org
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Old April 4th, 2013, 11:25 AM   #3
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Architecture of the Ismaili Centre, London

The architects, the Casson Conder Partnership, were presented with an unusual design brief. They were requested to design an institutional building in an area of London which had a very great architectural diversity but which clearly had Western inspiration. The Centre sought to be compatible with its surroundings, but at the same time to meet the specific requirements of the Ismaili community and reflect the mood of Islamic architectural tradition.

The new building had to make available a substantial amount of space for use by members of the Ismaili community itself as well as by others. Space was required for the community’s religious education, senior citizen, youth and other institutional activities, such as committee meetings, seminars and receptions. In addition, the design had to meet the desire for the inclusion of a substantial public exhibition gallery.

The design of the building had to be such that it could deal with relatively large numbers of people entering and leaving the building, without causing major disturbance. This had to be accomplished on an extremely prominent island site in one of the busiest areas of London and in an acceptable cross-cultural architectural language, which encompassed the architectural traditions of the Muslim community the building is designed to serve. In the process, a large number of individuals were consulted, such as leaders of the Ismaili community, renowned Islamic scholars and architects and designers specialised in Islamic art and design.

The Ismaili Centre is opposite the Museum of Natural History and the Victoria and Albert Museum. The area presents a variety of imposing and elaborately modelled facades, very different from each other in terracotta, brick and stone. One of the few elements which these buildings, built in different materials at different times, has in common is the light colour of their facades. The Ismaili Centre's exterior has used materials and colours which are compatible with those of the surrounding buildings while at the same time in keeping with the traditional Islamic idiom and its colours of whites, light greys and blues.


Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher officially opens the Ismaili Centre, London in the presence of HH The Aga Khan. Photo: Nick Hewer

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Old April 4th, 2013, 11:30 AM   #4
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Architecture of the Ismaili Centre, London


The South elevation of the Ismaili Centre, London, viewed from the West along Thurloe Place. Photo: Crispin Boyle


The fountain pool in the Entrance Hall follows the inter-weaving geometrical floor pattern, characteristic of Islamic art, executed in white marble, Brazilian blue granite and inlaid stainless steel. The calligraphic Basmallah adorns the far wall. Photo: Gary Otte


An alcove for quiet gathering draws light in, but filters out the distractions of the city below. Photo: Gary Otte

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Old April 4th, 2013, 11:33 AM   #5
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Architecture of the Ismaili Centre, London


The Roof Garden by night showing the central fountain connected by radial channels to the four corner pools. Photo: Gary Otte


A view from the Reading Room showing the three fountains on the axis of the Roof Garden. Photo: Gary Otte


The geometric designs and symmetry are visible in the décor and furnishings in the Social Hall. Photo: Crispin Boyle

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Old April 4th, 2013, 11:36 AM   #6
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Architecture of the Ismaili Centre, London


This unique skylight casts geometrical patterns on the floor below. Photo: Crispin Boyle


The honey comb ceiling (muqarnas) designed by Karl Schlamminger is a relief seeking design that gives a sense of greater height. Photo: Crispin Boyle


Panelling on the West window wall of the Prayer Hall, designed by Karl Schlamminger, incorporating marble, tile and plaster lattice panels with vertical teak panels in rectangular calligraphy. The names Allah, Muhammad and Ali (not shown) are to be read in the light space between the teak members. Photo: Crispin Boyle

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Old April 4th, 2013, 11:41 AM   #7
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Architecture of the Ismaili Centre, London


Details of the exterior architectural finishes. Photo: Crispin Boyle


A detailed view of the Southern elevation of the Ismaili Centre, London. Photo: Crispin Boyle

www.theismaili.org
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Old April 4th, 2013, 11:45 AM   #8
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The Ismaili Centre, Burnaby

Starting in the 1970s, Ismailis across Canada established religious, cultural and social centres, mainly in rented accommodation in major cities and towns. In many cases, school halls were used as places of worship in the evenings and at weekends. However, in order to meet the permanent needs of the community, more definitive accommodation was sought. The site in Burnaby was acquired in 1979, for it was here that the first Ismaili congregation was established in Canada.

A firm of architects, led by the well-known Vancouver architect Bruno Freschi, was commissioned to prepare the plans for the building. In addition to meeting the religious and social needs of the Ismaili community, the new Ismaili Centre would, at the same time, need to blend harmoniously with the environment.

In July 1982, the Foundation Ceremony was performed by the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, the Honourable Henry Bell-Irving, in the presence of HH The Aga Khan, Mayor Lewarne of Burnaby and other distinguished guests. Three years later, in August 1985, Hazar Imam returned to Canada for the Opening Ceremony of the new Ismaili Centre, Burnaby, which was performed by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Since its opening, the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby has hosted a wide range of events, opening its doors to government officials, prominent academics, leaders of many communities, and the wider public. In March 1999, members of the judiciary gathered with the Ismaili Conciliation and Arbitration Board to better understand the role that the Board can play in dispute resolution. Chief Justice Brian Williams and Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh attended as guests of honour.

The Centre has also provided a dignified space for the Greater Vancouver Regional District. Between September – December 2002, the mayors and staff of all municipalities in the Lower Mainland held a series of board meetings at the Centre.

On a number of occasions, the Ismaili Centre provided a distinguished venue for the presentation of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, including the Gold level awards that were presented by His Royal Highness The Duke of York. The events presented award recipients and their families an opportunity to tour the Centre and dialogue with leaders of the Ismaili community.

Most recently, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, led some 200 British Columbian youth in a Truce Dialogue. The Dialogue was part of Canada’s expression of the Olympic Truce in the run-up to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The Ismaili Councils for Canada and British Columbia partnered with VANOC, the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, to host the Dialogue session, which took place in the social hall of the Ismaili Centre, before concluding in its courtyard.


An aerial view of the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby, which is aligned along an east-west axis on a 1.5-hectare site. Photo: Gary Otte

www.theismaili.org
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Old April 4th, 2013, 11:54 AM   #9
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Architecture of the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby

The architect was presented with an unusual design brief: Canada’s first specially designed Ismaili Centre had to be a synthesis of Islamic architecture and contemporary building design — drawing on architectural principles steeped in the tradition of the faith, and at the same time co-existing with the requirements of modern-day society. It would be a fusion, symbolic of the Ismaili community. The underlying objective was to provide a religious and social facility for the community, blending harmoniously and discreetly with the environment, adding yet another dimension to the varied architecture of the Lower Mainland.

Islamic architecture, which embodies a strength which comes from the very diversity of the Islamic world and the creativity of those who build for Muslims, has reflected over the ages, different peoples, climates and materials. Essentials that transcend regional factors of climate, materials, time and technology, include concepts such as the serenity of form, the compatibility of traditions with natural forces, and the overwhelming unity of Islamic life. Islamic architecture has always been cognisant of a need for balance between man and his environment — a concern that, particularly in recent years, has found increasing global resonance.

The calligraphy which adorns much of what is built is a constant reminder of spiritual content through its common design and expression of the name of Allah. The basic forms are balanced and ruled by geometry and there is a sense of stability, tranquillity and equillibrium. Space is framed, with each area being defined; a physical context being constructed for each activity in daily life with a definite delineation between privacy and community, areas in light and in shadow, small and large spaces, and interiors and exteriors.

A pursuit of geometry, enclosure, symmetry, mass and the layering of symbolic decoration have generated the architectural concept of the Burnaby Jamatkhana and Centre. These architectural principles and use of materials have structured and characterised the building. The setting of the building, with its well laid-out garden, provides a serene and peaceful space for contemplative spiritual experience. The sound of moving water, the touch of varied surfaced textures, the richness of colour and the play of light and shade upon the vision, the scent of plants are all reminiscent of the finest in Islamic tradition.

The challenge to design in such a cross-cultural environment, symbolic, as well, of the strengths that come from the diversity of the Canadian way of life, has been met, in this building, by the Canadian-born architect who himself hails from an Italian Catholic background.


HH The Aga Khan and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney shake hands following the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the opening of the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby. Photo: Gary Otte

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Old April 4th, 2013, 11:57 AM   #10
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Architecture of the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby


Looking past the fountain at the entrance of the Centre. The building is clad in Carrara marble and Italian sandstone. Photo: Gary Otte


A winter view of the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby from the south-west. Photo: Gary Otte


An outside view of the lantern-like windows of the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby. Photo: Gary Otte

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Old April 4th, 2013, 11:59 AM   #11
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Architecture of the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby


Looking across the courtyard from the surrounding gardens. Photo: Garry Otte


The principle entrance takes the form of a niche, emanating a lamp-like light. Photo: Gary Otte


The patterned glass windows take on different colours depending upon the intensity and the direction of light falling upon them. Photo: Gary Otte

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Old April 4th, 2013, 12:02 PM   #12
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Architecture of the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby


A close-up view of the Centre's windows from the outside. Photo: Gary Otte


Geometric patterns inspired by the traditions of Islam are repeated in interior decor. Photo: Gary Otte


The opalescent cast-glass windows in the Prayer Hall are decorated with stained geometric patterns. Photo: Gary Otte

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Old April 4th, 2013, 12:06 PM   #13
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Architecture of the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby


A detailed view of the window pane reveals intricate Islamic geometric patterns. Photo: Garry Otte


An interior close-up view of the windows, which are decorated with stained geometric patterns. Photo: Gary Otte


Reflecting the ceiling, the octagonal theme is present on the carpet inside the Prayer Hall. Photo: Garry Otte

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Old April 4th, 2013, 12:10 PM   #14
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Architecture of the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby


Calligraphy and patterns define the interior of the Centre. Photo: Gary Otte


Sandblasted coral and rose marble panels inlaid with brass are used to form the mihrab, the Muslim architectural indication of the direction of prayer. Photo: Garry Otte


Thirteen octagonal domes with brass circle rings provide natural light. Photo: Garry Otte

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Old April 4th, 2013, 12:15 PM   #15
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Architecture of the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby


The multi-functional Social Hall facilitates government forums, citizenship ceremonies, weddings, and other events. It has hosted a number of high-profile guests, including Her Excellency The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, and His Royal Highness Prince Andrew. Photo: Garry Otte


The centrepiece of the Council Chambers is a Carrara marble table from Italy. Photo: Gary Otte


Five copper domes and glazed cupolas mark the roof of the Centre. Photo: Gary Otte

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Old April 4th, 2013, 12:21 PM   #16
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About the Ismaili Centre, Lisbon

Beginning in the 1970s, Portuguese Ismailis created places of gathering for cultural and social purposes in major cities and towns where they settled. They also found office space for the establishment of philanthropic organisations that they sponsored. As they developed and expanded, these organisations involved increasing numbers of institutional partners and the wider Portuguese public.

In order to meet the growing needs of institutions and the Ismaili community itself, a permanent and comprehensive facility was acquired in 1986. The site, in the prime location of Palma de Baixo, in close proximity to prominent universities and principal hospitals in Lisbon, is easily accessible to all parts of the city.

There followed considerable reflection over the most effective way of using the site to meet the community's institutional objectives and to contribute to social, cultural and economic development in Portugal. Eventually, a team of architects, led by Raj Rewal of New Delhi and Frederico Valsassina of Lisbon, was commissioned to prepare the plans for a centre which had to meet a challenging architectural design brief.

In December 1996, President Jorge Sampaio laid the Foundation Stone of the Centro Ismaili in the presence of HH The Aga Khan and other distinguished guests, senior government officials and the Mayor of Lisbon, Joao Soares. Describing the contribution that he saw the building making, President Sampaio observed that “the future Ismaili Centre will be an important element in the permanent dialogue amongst cultures, a place of encounter between civilisations, of discussion of ideas, and of serene and mutually enriching debate on the great problems that are of legitimate and equal concern to all.”

One-and-a-half years later, on 11 July 1998, President Sampaio and HH The Aga Khan returned to the site for the Opening Ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, Lisbon.


A bird’s eye view of the Ismaili Centre, Lisbon. Photo: Gary Otte

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Old April 4th, 2013, 12:24 PM   #17
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Architecture of the Ismaili Centre, Lisbon

The design brief called for a centre which would draw upon traditional design approaches from Muslim civilizations yet avoid transplanting any idiom particular to a specific locale in its entirety. Significant emphasis was placed upon technological innovation and on construction that would be appropriate to the area. The architects' response was influenced by the morphology of traditional spatial arrangements, by the notion of Islamic gardens and by the patterns in architecture that have served different Muslim societies.

The Ismaili Centre would have to represent a harmonious encounter between the historic legacies of cultures amidst which Ismaili Muslims have lived, and the needs and circumstances of contemporary society. Materials and techniques indigenous to the Iberian Peninsula were applied to concepts drawn from a variety of Islamic traditions, Asian, African and European, using advanced building technology. The objective was the creation of a complex of spaces and buildings whose cultural and social dimensions would complement each other as well as functional, educational facilities and institutional offices, whilst also providing reflective space for the Ismail community’s own use.

Islamic architecture embodies a strength that derives from the very diversity of the Islamic world. The creativity of those who have built for societies in which Muslims live has reflected, over the ages, a variety of cultural, ethnic, linguistic and intellectual traditions, as well as climatic variances and a range of physical environments. Transcending the features of time, topography and technology, are concepts such as the serenity of form, the resonance of traditions with natural forces and the comprehensive outlook on life that is so central to the Islamic message. Architecture and space in Islam have always recognised the need for an equilibrium between man and his environment.

Nature, within and around built space, establishes harmony and continuity between the interior and the exterior. External areas, landscaped in distinctive configurations, nevertheless converge into unique homogeneity. Grading and plant borders protect inner area without circumscribing it. Fragrance and fruition subtly determine centripetal pathways from the pedestrian entrances. Courtyards and gardens defining the buildings help create a privacy of place and tranquillity of spirit within the complex. Together, they recall traditions which recognise, amidst greenery and gently flowing water, a promise of the sights, sounds, textures, scents and tastes of paradise.

Whilst balance between the outdoor enclosures and the indoor volumes is provided by the geometric sequences of transitional spaces, this inter-relationship between interior and exterior space is also conveyed by the stone and steel latticework which is an innovative structural adaptation of the jaalis inspired by Islamic monuments as diverse as Fatehpur Sikri in Agra, India and the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. The harmony of the whole extends to even the most delicate design elements. Form and order liberate rather than confine the single basic theme of the hand-painted tiles that unify the different functional areas around each courtyard.

An original decorative pattern, drawing on the Moorish influence which still characterises the craft in Portugal to this day, metamorphoses in colour and intricacy as it is repeated along the lower walls of various parts of the complex. Islamic inspiration in design, in ceramic tile, stone lattice, vaulted ceiling and woven carpet represents a rare combination of the mathematician’s acuity and the artisan’s skill. A geometric fusion of gardens and courtyards as well as buildings embodying in hewn stone surfaces, polished tile and delicately balanced cupolas, an unusual multi-cultural and multi-functional complex, constitutes the architectural concept of the Ismaili Centre.

For Indian architect Raj Rewal, himself from a non-Muslim tradition, the diversity of architecture across the Muslim world and the building traditions of the Iberian Peninsula contributed to his understanding of composing space. Recognising that architecture of the Islamic world is not monolithic, he has sought and found inspiration from Persian garden designs, from the Alhambra, the Mughal splendour of Fatehpur Sikri and the Monastery of Jeronimos in Lisbon itself. Working with Portuguese architect Frederico Valsassina and his associates, Rewal has assimilated these varied influences, merged the resulting distinctive architecture with Portuguese urban values and applied to it innovative construction technologies.


Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio and HH The Aga Khan tour the newly completed Ismaili Centre, Lisbon. Photo: Gary Otte

www.theismaili.org
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Old April 4th, 2013, 12:27 PM   #18
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Architecture of the Ismaili Centre, Lisbon


The sunken courtyard of the chahar-bagh. Photo: Gary Otte


The fountain in the chahar-bagh. Photo: Gary Otte


A view into the Centre from the outside. Photo: Gary Otte

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Old April 4th, 2013, 12:30 PM   #19
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Architecture of the Ismaili Centre, Lisbon


All together, One: The walls recite the 99 attributes of Allah. Photo: Gary Otte


Textures and patterns. Photo: Gary Otte


A creative encounter between light, structure and geometry. Photo: Gary Otte

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Old April 4th, 2013, 12:34 PM   #20
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Architecture of the Ismaili Centre, Lisbon


The serene trickle of a fountain is set amidst a playful dance of light and colour. Photo: Gary Otte


A courtyard fountain framed in granite lattice. Photo: Gary Otte


Calligraphy, dappled by the motif. Photo: Gary Otte

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