Aga Khan Development Network

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Aga Khan Award for Architecture

Historic Cities Programme

Music Initiative

Museums & Exhibitions

Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture


Other AKDN agencies


Current Programmes

In addition to the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, The Trust conducts two other major programmes: the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, and the Aga Khan Music Initiative. All three address the Trust's essential purpose, but do so in ways that are distinct, have their own geographical coverages, and have different, though overlapping, target audiences. All make use of workshops, seminars, publications, and the media to stimulate thinking and disseminate outcomes, although the form as well as the content varies according to the needs of each programme. Other programmes support the Trust's essential aims through exhibitions and outreach activities.

Architecture Programmes

A focus on the practice of architecture in the Muslim world for nearly twenty years has produced a reservoir of data, information, expertise, and experience that may be unique. It has grown primarily because of two initiatives, each the first of its kind, and both now responsibilities of the Trust for Culture. They are the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, established in 1977, the world's largest prize for architecture, and the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a specialised programme of professional and graduate studies and research established in 1979. Their activities have generated knowledge about contemporary and historic buildings, professional education, the cultural and economic dimensions of built environments, and a network of architectural professionals, scholars, and administrators specialising in the Muslim world.

This wealth of information documents the pluralism and diversity of Muslim societies and of their current circumstances. It also allows for the identification of critical challenges they share in the present period of rapid economic and cultural change. Among the more prominent are the needs to:

The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme

Stone Town Cultural Centre, Zanzibar, restored by the Trust's Historic Cities Programme and inaugurated in early 1997.This programme, formalised in 1992, undertakes specific, direct interventions focused on physical, social, and economic revitalisation of historic sites in the Muslim world. The challenge taken up by the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme (HCP) is to demonstrate that cultural concerns and socio-economic needs can be mutually supportive. Accordingly, the programme tests new strategies which combine state-of-the-art restoration, conservation, and urban development principles with community based institutions and fresh entrepreneurial initiatives designed to make local resources self-sustaining for the future.

Typically, HCP identifies, plans, and executes projects. Where necessary, it establishes local service companies as partners in implementation and prepares them for autonomous operation as self-sustaining community organisations. Operating flexibly, however, HCP fits its role to the needs of each project and community, and works in any combination of the following capacities:

Project identification and planning assistance to government and local bodies that have recognised conservation potentials. HCP provides technical expertise, defines opportunities and approaches, prepares feasibility studies, and shapes proposals for submission to local investors or international agencies, including the Trust itself.

Planning for conservation and appropriate redevelopment. HCP undertakes urban conservation and development projects which may include a cluster of buildings, public spaces between and around buildings, a district, or a complete plan for a historic town. These efforts can move from study and planning through funding and implementation with the help of local institutions, governments, and other funding partners. All such projects aim at restoring and maintaining the socio-economic and cultural fabric of a designated area.

Undertaking selected conservation and re-use projects. HCP periodically engages in restoring specific historic sites and buildings. These may be elements of urban landscape or single structures, for which appropriate new functions are developed to meet the social and economic needs of the respective communities.

Cultural initiatives are planned in most sites to support the long-term viability of conservation projects through the re-animation of historic structures in a context of ongoing social and economic change, rather than as an isolated process. All enabling development factors - community support, innovative institutional structures, and commercial potential - are harnessed, whenever possible, to make conservation sustainable.

To date, the Trust has undertaken restoration, urban conservation, and development projects in Granada, Baltit-Karimabad, Zanzibar, Cairo, and Samarkand. Restoration of the Zafra House in Granada was completed in 1991. In 1996, HCP completed the conservation of the Baltit Fort and the stabilisation of the historic core of the village of Karimabad in the Hunza Valley. The restoration of the Old Dispensary in Zanzibar as the new Stone Town Cultural Centre was completed in early 1997. Special documentation kits on these projects and a monograph on the planning and conservation of the Zanzibar Stone Town have been published.

Aga Khan Music Initiative

Aga Khan Music Initiative in Central AsiaAga Khan Music Initiative in Central Asia.The Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI) is a new initiative to provide financial resources and technical assistance to support the preservation and promotion of professional oral-tradition music throughout Central Asia and adjoining states. AKMICA strives to achieve the goals of preserving and promoting Central Asian music through four distinct, but mutually reinforcing programme areas: Supporting Tradition Bearers; Music Touring and Festivals programmes; Documentation and Dissemination; and various collaborations with other instituitions.

Museums and Exhibitions

The Museums and Exhibitions unit is dedicated to presenting Islamic arts and culture in their historic, cultural and geographical diversity. It is currently building the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto and has mounted a series of travelling exhibitions that have appeared in museums in Europe and the Far East. It has also assisted museums in developing countries in a number of ways.

Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture

Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture (AKPIA) is an endowed centre of excellence in the history, theory and practice of Islamic architecture based at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. An endowed centre of excellence in the history, theory, and practice of Islamic architecture, AKPIA's mandate is to educate architects, planners, teachers, and researchers who can contribute directly to meeting the building and design needs of Muslim communities today.

ArchNet is on-line resource based at the MIT School of Architecture and Planning with the support of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. The central goal of ArchNet is to provide an extensive, high-quality, globally accessible, on-line resource focusing on architecture, urban design, urban development, and related issues in the Muslim world. It is available through the Internet, at, to scholars, practitioners, and interested non-specialists.

Seminars and Conferences

Finally, the Trust continues to develop and support seminars and conferences on a selected basis. Topics, in order of priority, currently include:

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