The Ismaili Center and Jamatkhana was the first purpose-built Jamatkhana to be built by the Ismaili community in Canada. THe focal point of the building is the Prayer Hall, emphasizing its primary religious function providing facilities for prayer. The building which also serves as the administrative headquarters for the Ismaili community, includes a social hall, administrative offices, council chamber and classrooms.
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.
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.
Access to the building is gained through a courtyard garden, which is enhanced by fountains, trees and flowers. Inside, a prayer hall provides facilities for communal services and quiet contemplation. The facility also includes a social hall, administrative offices, council chamber and classrooms for religious instruction. 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.
Jodidio, Philip, editor. Ismaili Centres. In Under the Eaves of Architecture: The Aga Khan Builder and Patron. Munich: Prestel, 2008.
Ismaili Centres, from the book Under the Eaves of Architecture: The Aga Khan Builder and Patron.
The Aga Khan has launched numerous initiatives that aim in one way or another to improve the built environment of the Muslim world. For the first time, this book reveals the reasoning behind these efforts and their very substantial scale and ambition. It can safely be said that through the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network and such prestigious institutions as the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Aga Khan has become the leading private patron of architecture in the world. Interviews with more than fifty people closely associated with these efforts, and with the Aga Khan himself, allow this book to give the first overview of programmes and ideas that have benefited thousands of people across the world in the past fifty years.