Nestled amongst landscaped walkways, pavement cafés, and a crop of new buildings within London’s revitalised King’s Cross, stands the Aga Khan Centre, providing a purpose-built space for contemplation, collaboration, and contribution to knowledge and scholarship. The precise accuracy of the building’s architectural features contrasts with the organic plant life and flowing water of its gardens. The resulting combination of flexible multi-use spaces will offer areas for learning and research, public programming, private events, and tranquil places for quiet reflection.
The Aga Khan Centre, designed by Maki and Associates, led by Fumihiko Maki, one of the world’s most distinguished contemporary architects, provides a new home for a number of UK based organisations founded by Mawlana Hazar Imam: The Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS), the Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC) and the Aga Khan Foundation UK (AKF UK). These Institutions have been operating in the UK for many years and are part of a mission and mandate to increase knowledge and understanding of Muslim civilisations and help improve the quality of life for people around the world.
Through research and publications, higher education and a public programme of lectures and exhibitions, the organisations located at the Aga Khan Centre will continue to serve as bridges, building understanding about Muslim cultures and societies. The Aga Khan Library, London, situated across two floors at the heart of the new building, will house the unique collections of IIS and AKU-ISMC, and provide space for study as well as secure archival storage for rare books and manuscripts.
The Aga Khan Centre will also provide a venue to connect the public to global development issues and the Aga Khan Foundation’s work to improve the quality of life for people of all faiths and backgrounds in some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities.
Designed to represent the values of openness, dialogue, and pluralism, a central atrium as well as open-plan work and study areas, will create opportunities for new encounters and dialogue amongst the different users of the building. A distinctive feature of the Aga Khan Centre is its six gardens, courtyards and terraces inspired by Islamic landscape design from Spain, North Africa and the Middle East, to Central and South Asia. Garden tours will be open to the public at scheduled times from the end of September 2018.
Victoria Hall King’s Cross, across the way from the Aga Khan Centre, is a halls of residence which provides accommodation for students of the IIS and AKU-ISMC as well as other students studying in London. The residence which opened in 2016, also has two outdoor spaces – a courtyard garden on the first floor and a terraced garden on the eighth floor, both designed by landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic who also designed the Aga Khan Park in Toronto. The eight gardens at the Aga Khan Centre and Victoria Hall as well as two public gardens adjoining the buildings, form a ribbon of green spaces, which seek to reflect the rich diversity of cultures across the world of Islam.