Charles Correa was an Indian architect, planner, activist, and theoretician who studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Michigan. He taught and lectured at many universities, both in India and abroad, including MIT, Harvard University, the University of London, and Cambridge University, where he was Nehru Professor. Mr. Correa is known for the wide range of his architectural work in India and on urbanisation and low-cost shelter in the Third World, which he articulated in his 1985 publication, The New Landscape.
His architectural designs have been internationally acclaimed and he has received many awards including the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal (1984), the Indian Institute of Architects Gold Medal (1987), the International Union of Architects Gold Medal (1990), and the Praemium Imperiale for Architecture from the Japan Art Association (1994). Professor Correa was a member of the 1980, 1983, 1986, and 2001 Aga Khan Award for Architecture Steering Committees, and of the 1989 Award Master Jury. He was presented an Aga Khan Award for Architecture during the 1998 cycle as the architect of Vidhan Bhavan in Bhopal, India.
Over the past decade Correa's impact on global architecture extended far beyond India with international projects such as the Champalimaud Centre in Lisbon, the Brain Science Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Ismaili Centre in Toronto.
The Ismaili Centre, Toronto is situated, together with the Aga Khan Museum, within a 6.8-hectare landscaped park, a new space for the public that showcases the work of three renowned architects. Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki designed the Aga Khan Museum, while Indian architect Charles Correa designed the Ismaili Centre. The Park, which features a formal garden, was designed by architect Vladimir Djurovic of Lebanon. The Canadian firm Moriyama & Teshima are the architects for the entire project and responsible for integrating all aspects of the project.
Along with other Ismaili Centres located in Vancouver, London, Lisbon, Dubai and Dushanbe, the Ismaili Centre, Toronto continues a tradition of hosting programs that stimulate the intellect, encourage dialogue, and celebrate cultural diversity. Through programmes ranging from lectures, seminars and exhibitions, to cultural and social events, the Centre creates an understanding of the values, ethics, culture and heritage of Ismaili Muslims, and of the work of the Aga Khan Development Network.
The Ismaili Centre includes a place of prayer (Jamatkhana) for the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim community as well as spaces for social, educational and cultural activities. The buildings and Park represent His Highness the Aga Khan’s longstanding relationship with Canada and his appreciation for the country’s commitment to pluralism and cultural diversity.
In designing the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, Charles Correa’s vision was to create a building that responds to the traditions of Islamic architecture in a contemporary design using modern materials.
The most striking feature of the Ismaili Centre is undoubtedly the prayer hall, with its crystalline frosted glass dome and elegant steel trusses. The Centre is a complex of varied spaces for contemplative, cultural, educational and recreational purposes. Its design draws upon the traditions of Islamic architecture and incorporates these in a contemporary Canadian context, reflecting the Ismaili community’s permanent presence in Canada as well as its desire to welcome others in an exchange of cultures and ideas. The Centre’s exterior and the surrounding Park reflect these notions in their terraces, gardens and reflecting pools, presenting a serene space that is both modern and timeless.
Approaching the prayer hall through the anteroom, one sees the “muqarnas” (designed by Arriz Hassam), a finely crafted corbelled ceiling whose skylight provides a subtle transition from the outside to the serene prayer hall inside. A onyx "mihrab" designed by Hashim Sarkis Studios completed the circular prayer hall. Connecting the prayer hall and social area of the building is a generous foyer and its geometric stone floor pattern that flows from one to the other providing physical and visual connections between the two distinctive spaces. In the social hall, the ceiling is almost two stories high and the descending glass roof once again fills it with natural light while the glass doors open to the gardens beyond.
The slightly raised atrium lounge anchors the foyer and embraces natural light as its glass walls rise through the upper floor to yet another skylight. A library and several classrooms are on this floor, while the upper level is home to administrative offices and a formal boardroom that opens onto a spacious stone terrace with views of the city and park below.