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Islamic Architecture Website Launched - The Havard Crimson

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  • Zafar Khan
    Islamic Architecture Website Launched By WILLIAM C. MARTIN Contributing Writer http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=254290 The Aga Khan ?59, spiritual
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2002
      Islamic Architecture Website Launched
      Contributing Writer


      The Aga Khan ?59, spiritual leader of the world?s 15
      million Ismaili Muslims, joined the presidents of
      Harvard and MIT Friday to launch the world?s largest
      online resource for scholars of Islamic architecture.
      The resource, called ArchNet, contains over 600,000
      images of Islamic architecture, tools for discussion
      and collaboration online among scholars and access to
      key journals of Islamic architecture.

      Harvard served as one of the primary collaborators in
      the creation of the site.

      Those speaking at Friday?s launch said they hoped the
      free site would provide architects, urban-planners and
      academics in resource-poor areas the tools they need
      to study, and give the Western public an opportunity
      to experience Islamic culture.

      ?In a brilliant way, [ArchNet] combines new technology
      and ancient culture to do something that is really
      quite important,? University President Lawrence H.
      Summers said in his remarks to the 150-person audience
      at MIT?s Media Laboratory.

      In a video presentation that followed the three
      leaders? opening remarks, William J. Mitchell, dean of
      the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, said the
      goal was to make ArchNet not only a database of
      images, but also a ?center of academic activity.?

      ?In many ways ArchNet is like the ancient library in
      Alexandria,? he said.

      ArchNet grew out of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic
      Architecture at Harvard and MIT, which he endowed in

      The Aga Khan described the site as a long-sought
      answer to the question of how the program at Harvard
      and MIT would serve architects and planners in the
      developing Islamic world.

      He said that the program had tried many solutions,
      ?but they didn?t have the potential that ArchNet has

      Shiraz Allibhai, the managing director of ArchNet,
      said he hopes the site will succeed in fostering input
      from its users in the developing Islamic world.

      ?In 10 years, I see ArchNet not solely rooted at MIT,?
      he said. ?I see it being driven at the grassroots
      level from schools in the Islamic world really
      contributing to it, with the continuing dialogue with
      Western schools.?

      Discussion of the new resource focused on the role
      ArchNet could play in educating the world about
      Islamic culture after Sept. 11.

      Allibhai said the site is a resource for not only the
      architectural community, but also the general public.

      ?If [people] come to a site like ArchNet, they?ll see
      the rich diversity of Islamic civilization?the
      pluralism that exists within Islamic culture,? he

      Summers said he believes the importance of a project
      like ArchNet is more widely recognized today.

      ?What happens in the Islamic world?how the Islamic
      world finds its relationship with the rest of the
      world, how our country finds its relationship with the
      Islamic world?is going to be one of the two or three
      most important things that determine the world in
      which my children live, and all of our children live,?
      he said.

      Tom G. Kessinger, general manager of the Aga Khan
      Foundation and an early leader in the development of
      the site, predicted that architectural firms may see
      ArchNet as a unique way to showcase their work to
      potential customers.

      ?It may be an opportunity, because with some
      commercialization will also come some resources to
      help develop [the site],? he said. ?But it would be a
      shame to have it completely taken over, so that the
      student in one place or another couldn?t deal with

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