On May 18, 2017, The Architectural League of New York presented its President’s Medal to His Highness the Aga Khan on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. The President’s Medal is The Architectural League’s highest honor and is bestowed, at the discretion of the League’s President and Board of Directors, to recognize an extraordinary body of work in architecture, urbanism, art, or design.
Recent recipients of the President’s Medal include Michael R. Bloomberg, Henry N. Cobb, Richard Serra, Renzo Piano, Amanda Burden, Massimo and Lella Vignelli, Hugh Hardy, Richard Meier, Ada Louise Huxtable, Robert A.M. Stern, Kenneth Frampton, Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, and Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.
The Medal was presented to His Highness at a dinner at the Metropolitan Club for 330 guests. Humanities scholar Homi K. Bhabha, city planner Amanda M. Burden, and architect Diébédo Francis Kéré celebrated His Highness the Aga Khan with remarks.
Homi K. Bhabha remarked:
“Pluralistic inquiry is the living link between the good society and public space; and architecture is the arc of this ancient and intimate connection.” He continued: “The aspiration of the Aga Khan Award, as I understand it, is to build structures and systems that enable dialogue, collaboration, and affiliation amongst communities—national, regional and diasporic—who live side by side.”
In her presentation of the Medal, Billie Tsien said:
“The Aga Khan Award has been a bridge connecting the world to the beauty and power of work done to serve Muslim populations.” She continued: “This award helps to elevate the quality of architecture, planning, and landscape design by shedding light on exemplary work. And most importantly it affirms the power of architecture to create and to sustain a humane and beautiful world for all people. All people, all cultures, all faiths look to beauty as a profound source of both solace and joy.”
She then read the following citation:
The Architectural League presents its President’s Medal to His Highness the Aga Khan with profound gratitude and humility. We are grateful for the extraordinary work of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and the recognition, scholarship, and investment it has catalyzed and supported, which has raised the quality of urban and rural environments around the world. We are humbled by His Highness’s belief in the power of architecture to elevate human experience. His Highness has demonstrated the capacity for architecture to be encompassing and inclusive, through his probing search to conceive anew the nature of cultural identity and continuity, his openness to innovation and experimentation, and his unwavering commitment to pluralism as a foundational principle of human community. By acknowledging not only the complexity and imperfection of the world we have created, but also its potential, His Highness the Aga Khan has set a magnificent example of stewardship and hope.
In accepting the medal, His Highness remarked:
“In thinking about the way societies live in the developing world, in the industrialized world, I came to a very simple conclusion: what is the art form that has the most important impact on every society, in every part of the world? And the answer is quite simply, architecture. It’s a very important evening in my life because it’s a recognition of an art form that which I believe needs global recognition, needs global attention, needs the best brains that we can mobilize, to improve the human habitat for decades and decades ahead. Thank you for this wonderful award,” he concluded.