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Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Hadrian Award 1997-10-24

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Event - 1997-10-24
Friday, 1997, October 24
Aga Khan IV (H.H. Prince Karim)

Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Hadrian Award
The Plaza Hotel
24th October 1997
Mr. Culver, Mr. Bronfman, distinguished guests,
I am pleased to be here today to maintain the tradition of the previous year's recipient presenting the Hadrian Award for the current year. Opportunities to direct the beam of public attention to the importance of the preservation of the world's architectural heritage are all too rare. For this reason, the World Monuments Fund's Hadrian Award, as well as this annual luncheon, have an importance that transcends any of us as individual participants. I congratulate the World Monuments Fund and all its supporters for the noble work in which it is engaged.

But the Award, and this event, are also about individual accomplishment -- and quite appropriately so. It is only the vision and energy of individuals such as Dr. Phyllis Lambert that makes it possible to accomplish the critical tasks of sustaining and enriching the world's built heritage. And what vision and energy she has. All of us concerned with architecture have watched the development of the Canadian Center for Architecture over the past fifteen years with great interest and admiration. My experience in the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, has also demonstrated the critical role of documentation and research for the preservation of our architectural heritage, and its essential use to stimulate and inform current practice. The Canadian Center is one of a very small number of very high quality institutions which actively works to make this possible.

But Dr. Lambert's contributions extend beyond her work as a patron, builder, and leader of a unique institution. Her accomplishments as a practitioner are remarkable for their breadth and their quality. She has distinguished herself as an architect, an urban designer, and a conservator. Of her many engagements, the project that is particularly remarkable from my perspective is Heritage Montreal. Its goals were to stop the destruction of an old city neighborhood and to provide good housing in the downtown area for people with low incomes -- including young families and seniors -- to renovate the remaining housing stock without gentrification, and to reinforce neighborhood structures in the city.

Why do I cite the Heritage Montreal project? The neighborhood certainly does not contain any structure that could be called monumental. What is monumental, however, is the mastery with which the project's goals were achieved against incredible odds. The pressures of private development process, the web of regulatory and legal issues, the mobilization of public opinion, the organization of the residents, and the generation of human and financial resources all had to be addressed. Virtually every city in the Muslim world is threatened by urban decay and the pressure of private development. The Heritage Montreal project demonstrates that they can be successfully managed to achieve a better future for all.

Another aspect of Dr. Lambert's oeuvre which I greatly admire is the importance she has accorded to enhancing cultural harmony and plurality. The example she has provided is most evident in the field of architecture, but not limited to it. Her personal courage and commitment are truly noteworthy.

In admiration I commend Dr. Lambert for her lifetime of activity on behalf of the built environment, for her outstanding achievements, and for her selection as the recipient of the 1997 Hadrian Award.

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