November 30, 2013
by Canadian Architect
About 200 people recently gathered at the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa for the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) presentation of its highest honour – its 2013 Gold Medal – to His Highness the Aga Khan.
“The Gold Medal was established to recognize a person of science or letters related to architecture and the arts,” said Paul E. Frank, FRAIC, RAIC President of the Board of Directors. “The selection of His Highness the Aga Khan marks the first time in more than 30 years that a non-architect has been chosen. It recognizes the extraordinary achievements of His Highness in using architecture as an instrument to further peaceful and sustainable community development around the world.”
His Highness the Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and Founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), one of the largest private development agencies in the world. Since taking on his role as Imam in 1957, the Aga Khan has been deeply engaged in improving the quality of life of the most vulnerable populations, while emphasizing the need to uphold human dignity as well as respect for tolerance and pluralism. Its annual budget for non-profit development activities is in excess of US$600 million.
After being presented with the Gold Medal, His Highness spoke about a deeper meaning of architecture, stating: “I see architecture as embracing practically all aspects – all aspects – of our entire built environment…The universal sensitivity to changes in the built environment also helps explain the profound impact of architecture on the way we think about our lives. Few other forces, in my view, have such transformational potential.”
2010 Gold Medal recipient George Baird, FRAIC, who was key to this year’s nomination, read the citation saying, “The selection of His Highness the Aga Khan recognizes his remarkable accomplishments in various aspects of 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. This includes the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, which has been responsible for the restoration of many heritage sites throughout the Muslim world, as well as the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.”
For further information on His Highness the Aga Khan or the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, please visit www.akdn.org.