“Ba Shokouh” – The Magnificent Ismaili Centre in Dushanbe, Tajikistan
PHOTOS AND TEXT BY FNDA ARCHITECTURE INC.
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THE FOUNDATION CEREMONY
August 30, 2003
“Today’s ceremony represents a milestone in the history of the Ismaili Muslim Community’s presence in Central Asia, a presence which dates back to the second century of Islam. For me personally, as the 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismailis, this is a day of great happiness” – His Highness the Aga Khan
THE OPENING CEREMONY
October 12, 2009
“We have looked forward to this event for a long time. And now that this day of dedication has come…We salute those who have donated their time and talent and material resources to this project, including those who designed, constructed and decorated this building and its surroundings. You have created a remarkable building that will enhance the cityscape of Dushanbe, just as it reflects and re-interprets the materials and colours and inspiring landscapes of other iconic buildings of the larger region.” – His Highness the Aga Khan
“BA SHOKOUH” – THE SPLENDID ISMAILI CENTRE
The Ismaili Centre Dushanbe is meant to be both representational and ambassadorial. It was built as an architectural edifice to stand as a symbol of humility, friendship, social responsibility and constructive dialogue. The design had to clearly reflect Shia Ismaili principles and philosophy in its use of space, materials and light while reflecting the richness of Shia design without transplanting it from the idioms of other locations in the Islamic world.
The design was a synthesis of Shia Ismaili architectural principles steeped in ethics, values and traditions of faith balanced against the requirements of modern day society. The building re-invigorated the design idiom of the region and made social and environmental sustainability an essential component – encouraging others to design with newfound creativity.
“This new Centre….will be a place….for peaceful contemplation of the spirit, and of the world, as we live our lives in the present moment….The Centre will have a space for congregational gathering, just like the array of Ismaili Centres in major cities across the world, both those which are now being developed and those that already exist, from London to Vancouver and Lisbon to Dubai.” – His Highness the Aga Khan
The detailing throughout the Centre includes elaborately carved plaster, doors, wood beams and creative use of brick. These are a feature of traditional Tajik architecture. Clay bricks, punctuated with blue and turquoise glaze, became the most distinctive visual aspect of the Centre. Granite in various patterns characterizes most of the floor space, while wooden floors made of beech, wenge and cherry woods were used in the Social Hall and Multipurpose Room.
“The Tajik Ismaili community has roots in this region that extend back more than a thousand years, as long ago as the second century of Islam. The community holds a recognised and admired position in the history of human endeavour here, contributing some of the greatest names in the fields of theology, philosophy, poetry and the sciences…..I remember, to mention just one example, how the 1000th anniversary of the birth of Syedna Nasir-i-Khusraw coincided with our foundation stone ceremony five years ago.” – His Highness the Aga Khan
“The passage of a millennium has not diminished Nasir Khusraw’s relevance nor dulled the lustre of his poetry. It continues to uplift and inspire, reminding us that we are the authors of our own destiny. As he has said, we can be like a poplar tree which chooses to remain barren, or we can let our path be lit by the candle of wisdom, for only ‘with intellect, we can seek out all the hows and whys. Without it, we are but trees without fruit’.” – His Highness the Aga Khan
Tajikistan is located in a highly seismic region and therefore the firm turned to technical innovations such as an elastic wood roof diaphragm to transfer structural stress in case of an earthquake. Among other innovations was a heating and air conditioning system based on water-source heat pumps used for the first time on this scale in the region, as well as a heat recovery wheel for energy efficiency.
Glue laminated beams were a major addition to local construction techniques. The carved wooden beams were designed by artisans from Khorog, the decorative plaster work on the walls was fashioned by Dushanbe craftsmen and carpets adorning the walls were handmade across Central Asia.
Tajiks have a strong sense of cultural pride – they consider their heritage the foundation of the culture of the region and the birthplace of great religions and belief systems. The design of the Centre had to take the Tajik culture into account to ensure the project would blend into Dushanbe but remain a unique icon to the landscape.
The complex is a unique and innovative space for intellectual and spiritual discovery – a place to share ideas, emotions, to learn from one another and celebrate rich traditions and customs. The Centre was the first of its kind in Central Asia — a region home to Ismaili Muslims for more than a thousand years. It embraces the union of the practice of faith with the advancement of intellect. It is a landmark, a beacon of hope for a future that embraces modernity while respecting tradition. The building not only meets the aspirations the client sought – it also illustrates the point that sound design is a principle that transcends time and geography. In short, the Centre created a bridge from a storied past to a promising future.
“The continuing pluralism of human endeavour will be manifested in the life of this Centre. It will be reflected in an array of exciting activities, serving people of many different backgrounds…we hope and trust that people of all faiths and background will gather here for educational and cultural events — for seminars, lectures, recitals and exhibitions….In this spirit, it is our prayer that the Centre will always radiate an inviting mood of friendship to one and all, proclaiming Islam’s message of one humanity, and joining its voice with so many other voices in this city and this country in affirming our shared responsibility for advancing the common good.” – His Highness the Aga Khan
Photos and Text: All photos by FNDA Architecture Inc. with the exception of three by AKDN/The Ismaili as noted in the captions.
Date posted: Friday, March 28, 2014.
Last updated: Monday, March 31, 2014, 21:30 EST.
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