Toledo, Spain, 2 March 2006 - His Highness the Aga Khan today accepted an award from the Royal Toledo Foundation (Real Fundación de Toledo) for work in the preservation and revitalisation of historic cities in the Islamic world. His Majesty Juan Carlos I, Patron of the Foundation, made the formal presentation of the Award.
The Award jury cited the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) for its innovative programmes in the cultural, social and economic development and preservation of Muslim communities. The AKTC is one of nine development agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network (see notes below).
The AKTC's Historic Cities Support Programme undertakes the restoration and rehabilitation of historic structures and public spaces in ways that spur social, economic and cultural development. Individual projects go beyond technical restoration to address issues relating to the social and environmental context, adaptive re-use, skills training for local residents and overall economic sustainability.
In accepting the Award, the Aga Khan said that "the creation of a humane, socially-supportive built environment is critical to a people's quality of life."
"At the same time, I believe that conservation can play a central role in helping different civilisations understand each other, to appreciate how mutually enriching their historic interactions have been, and the contribution of each to the common heritage of humanity," he said. The city of Toledo was a notable example of the successful preservation of churches, synagogues and mosques that reflected its rich Christian, Jewish and Muslim cultural heritage.
His Highness the Aga Khan receiving the Royal Foundation of Toledo Award from His Majesty Juan Carlos I in Toledo.The AKTC Historic Cities Support Programme has been involved in revitalisation projects in several different settings in the Islamic World, including restoration work on historic buildings in Kabul and Herat in Afghanistan, the conservation and adaptive re-use of forts and mosques in the Northern Areas of Pakistan, restoration of landmark buildings in Zanzibar's old Stone Town and city planning in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. AKTC has also transformed a 30-hectare rubble dump into a park in Cairo, Egypt, and has worked extensively on the revitalisation of the adjacent Darb Al-Ahmar neighbourhood. AKTC also assisted in the rehabilitation of war-damaged buildings near the historic bridge in Mostar, Bosnia, as well as restoration of the gardens of Humayun's Tomb in Delhi, India, and conservation work on the citadels of Aleppo, Qalat Salah ed-Din and Masyaf in Syria.
AKTC has two other major programme areas: the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and the Education and Culture Programme.
The Award for Architecture, a triennial prize established in 1977 by the Aga Khan, recognises examples of architectural excellence that encompass contemporary design, including social housing, community improvement and development, restoration, re-use, and area conservation, as well as landscaping and environmental issues.
The Education and Culture Programme has several components. The Aga Khan Music Initiative in Central Asia provides financial resources and technical assistance to support the preservation and promotion of professional oral-tradition music throughout Central Asia. The Aga Khan Programme for Islamic Architecture 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. ArchNet.org is an on-line resource focusing on architecture, urban design, urban development, and related issues in the Muslim world. The Humanities Project aims to develop a core introductory humanities curriculum for use in universities in Central Asia. The Museums Project launched two museum projects in 2003, in Toronto and Cairo.
While most AKTC work is in the developing world, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, South and Central Asia and the Middle East, it also has undertaken projects in Spain, including the restoration of the 14th century Nasrid Arab House, known as Zafir House, in the Albaycin district of Granada. The work was completed in June 1991. The inauguration ceremony was attended by His Majesty King Juan Carlos I. The Centre for Historic Studies of Granada and its Kingdom was installed on the premises.
In October 1998, the Aga Khan Award for Architecture ceremony was held in the Alhambra Palace in Granada.
Other Royal Foundation of Toledo Awards presented today included the Royal Academia of Arts and Historical Sciences of Toledo (Real Academia de Bellas Artes y Ciencias Históricas de Toledo) for its contribution to the preservation of the heritage of Toledo. The restorer Concha Cirujano won for contributions to the conservation of Spanish heritage, in particular her work in Toledo. Carlos Martínez Gil and Michael Noone received an award for their research and promotion of the musical heritage of Toledo's Cathedral. Architects José Antonio Martínez Lapeña and Elías Torres Tur received awards for a project to build a staircase in the historic centre of Toledo. Efforts to twin the cities of Toledo, Spain and Toledo, Ohio, USA were also awarded a prize. A special prize was given to an archeological team, Primitiva Bueno, Rosa Barroso and Rodrigo de Balbín, for work in the province of Toledo.
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The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) was founded by His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims. It is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies working to empower communities and individuals to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East. The Network's nine development agencies focus on social, cultural and economic development for all citizens, regardless of gender, origin or religion. The AKDN's underlying ethic is compassion for the vulnerable in society. Its annual budget for philanthropic activity is in excess of US$300 million.