The Ismaili Centre’s design brief placed a clear emphasis on ensuring order and harmony and on fostering mutual respect and understanding both within the Ummah and across society at large. At the same time, the Ismaili Centre is a metaphor for a time of renewed vigour, growth and commitment.
In an environment where glass and concrete towers have often set the trend, the objective was to allow innovation to draw on tradition, all the while preserving symmetry, rhythm, unity and continuity. Respecting a history of tolerance and openness, Egyptian architects Rami El-Dahan and Soheir Farid sought inspiration from the Fatimid mosques of Cairo. Reflecting a cosmopolitan synergy, the volumes and open spaces, angular views and integrated natural elements of the Ismaili Centre create a sense of familiarity for people of many different cultural backgrounds without introducing a foreign idiom.
Located on a corner site in Oud Metha, a small residential community with a growing commercial and cultural character, the Centre suggests an oasis of refreshing clam and refined distinction. The building is built primarily in Aleppo limestone, practically each piece being precision cut before assembly. From the brickwork in the domes, the marble interiors and tiles inlaid in the water channels, to the carved, shaped or assembled hardwood floors, fittings and furnishings, the range and placement of materials testify to rare artisanal detail and celebrate a sharing of talent. The largest exterior feature within the Ismaili Centre is a courtyard with a takhtabosh (loggia) along one side providing both shade and seating. A separate wing comprises meeting rooms, classrooms and recreational areas including a small courtyard. On the ground floor is the Early Childhood Learning Centre operated by the Aga Khan Education Services.
Jodidio, Philip. 2008. Ismaili Centres. In Under the Eaves: The Aga Khan: Builder and Patron. Munich: Prestel.
Ismaili Centres, from the book Under the Eaves: 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.