This landmark facility is the first Ismaili Centre in the US, and joins an established network of six centres worldwide. Its mission is to advance pluralism, and further public understanding, and civic outreach, under the guidance of the Ismaili community’s spiritual leader: His Highness the Aga Khan. The new Houston centre is designed by Farshid Moussavi Architecture.
A new centre to encourage shared perspectives across all backgrounds, traditions and faiths.
The project is located in central Houston, and forms part of the regeneration of the city’s Buffalo Bayou waterfront zone. It provides three principal functions – worship, education, and social interaction – through many unique facilities including a dramatic atrium, a prayer room, a social hall, an education wing, a social wing, and three multipurpose outdoor ‘Evian’ spaces. Some administrative offices for the Aga Khan National Council are also integrated.
Architecturally, the design draws from traditional Islamic philosophy and early Persian styles, as well as from Western design; the building itself symbolises dialogue through both its fabric and its use. Contextually, the design also responds to Houston’s harsh local climate of thunderstorms, hurricanes and floods. The objective is to establish a building that can withstand a 100-year lifespan and will serve the community for many generations.
AKT II’s structural and envelopes solutions together combine contemporary architectural technology (such as a robust concrete frame, with lightweight steel where needed to serve the architectural language) with traditional Persian forms and Islamicate ornaments (such as ceramic mosaics and screens). We are also enhancing the building’s longevity and durability by encasing the steel structure in concrete, and by specifying stone for the exterior walls. The facades are conceived as a stone ‘tapestry’ that transitions from solid areas to porous screens, and from flat surfaces to deep alcoves, to deliver the necessary shading, daylighting, privacy and transparency.