Session 4, Friday 13th, 3:10-4:00 pm
Location: University of Alberta, Lister Conference Centre, Wild Rose Room
Session 8, Saturday 14th, 3:20-4:50 pm
Location: University of Alberta, Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, Room 1-140
Space for Freedom, Space for Change: The Park and Garden Projects of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Thirteen of the planet’s 20 fastest growing cities are in areas of the developing world where the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) works, 10 of those in Africa. In many of these cities, green space has often been overwhelmed by growth, migration from the countryside and a lack of planning. “Garden cities” have become agglomerations of brick and concrete. Encroachment, both legal and illegal, has gradually swallowed up forests and grassland, diminishing green space. Overwhelmed by financial demands, municipalities have neglected the problem, assuming that green space was unproductive and therefore of little value – or worse, a financial liability. It is in this context that the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) began working to prove that, rather than being financial liabilities, green spaces themselves could be catalysts for positive economic, social and cultural change. Implicit in that notion is the idea that green spaces can become self-sustaining rather than burdens on municipal budgets. In Cairo, Bamako, Kabul, Delhi and other sites, AKTC’s rehabilitation of existing parks and the creation of new green spaces have made these sites hugely popular among local populations and international visitors. Some are running surpluses and a few even help subsidize urban regeneration projects in adjacent neighborhoods, restoring hope for the future in historic districts where many had become resigned to terminal decline. With 10 park and garden projects now in its portfolio, AKTC has demonstrated that parks not only contribute to the quality of life in cities, but that they can also be self-sustaining if conceived and managed properly. In several locations, it has even demonstrated that, under the correct conditions, parks and gardens can also be economic generators that drive – directly and indirectly – a broad advance of positive change in terms of social development, local employment, entrepreneurial activity and cultural development.
Shiraz Allibhai is the assistant general manager at the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Geneva, Switzerland. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture is the cultural agency of the Aga Khan Development Network. It promotes debate and exemplars in the contemporary built environment, engages in the physical, social, economic and cultural revitalization of communities in the developing world, and through education and cultural initiatives, aims to foster tolerance, openness and understanding of the plurality of peoples and cultures. Trained as an architect at the University of Texas and at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, Shiraz’s role is to help support and coordinate the activities of the Trust across all of its program. Shiraz was seconded from the Trust from 2002-2007 to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to establish and manage the online global resource Archnet. He now oversees the Islamic Garden project in Edmonton and is also involved in the establishment of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto.