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Fumihiko Maki’s Aga Khan Centre revealed at King’s Cross

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The limestone-clad building – which is topped by Islamic roof gardens – provides academic, archive and office spaces arranged around a central atrium 

The Aga Khan Centre in London, which opens in the autumn, is the first building in the city to be designed by Maki & Associates, led by 89-year-old Pritzker Prize-winner Fumihiko Maki. The design is intended to reflect the centre’s values of ’openness, dialogue and respect for pluralism’, inspired by Islam. Allies and Morrison was executive architect for the project.

The 11,000m² building, arranged over 10 storeys including a double-height basement, is a composite steel and concrete structure. Its main façades – clad in Adalusian limestone, of a type similar to that used at the Alhambra in Granada – are hung and cantilever above a glazed ground-floor level.

The centre is organised around a 40m-high, 6m-wide atrium, and a series of courtyard and rooftop gardens inspired by examples from the Islamic world and different models of traditional Islamic architecture. 

These include the Nelson Byrd Woltz-designed A Garden of Light, inspired by the Islamic courtyards of Andalucia, and Madison Cox’s A Garden of Life, which references India’s Mughal gardens. These are designed to offer both break-out spaces and secluded corners for study or contemplation. ’We took inspiration from the Ben Youssef Madrasa in Marrakech, with its series of courtyards and clusters of rooms around them,’ says project lead Gary Kamemoto, director at Maki & Associates.

The garden spaces, which together represent over 550 tonnes of landscaping, will be accessible to the public by appointment and link into a ‘ribbon’ of local public gardens, including Jellicoe Gardens and Lewis Cubitt Square.

The building, which accommodates over 200 researchers and students, will house three organisations led by the Aga Khan, who is the spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims: the Institute of Ismaili Studies, the Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations and the London branch of the Aga Khan Foundation, the international development organisation. 

Akdn aga khan centre kings cross ©hufton+crow 007

Akdn aga khan centre kings cross ©hufton+crow 007

Source: Hufton + Crow

It’s the third building designed by Maki & Associates for the Aga Khan, the others being the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, Ottawa in 2008 and the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto in 2014.

Kamemoto describes the design of the overall building as ’a classic tripartite architectural composition,’ with base, piano nobile and ‘crown’. He explains:

’Rather than being heavy, [the base] is glazed and permeable. Above is a stone-clad piano nobile – for which we were inspired by the Portland-stone clad buildings of central London. On top is a metal ‘crown’, for meetings and events, and the roof gardens.’

The ground floor ‘base’ level will house a small public exhibition space as well as a shop, café and projected Turkish pizza restaurant. 

Above are two floors of classrooms, and then two further floors of study rooms, including a library which contains the largest collection of Ismaili manuscripts in the world. Above this are three floors of offices for the Aga Khan Foundation and on top in the ‘crown’, a series of larger event spaces, arranged around the two main garden areas. 

From afar the building has rather a cool – almost bland – appearance: the windows flush with the façade and the limestone looks like precast panels. But upon entering, it grows richer, animated both by the incorporation of geometric patterning throughout and materials such as stone and ceramic tiling, all beautifully detailed. As you rise through the building, the rather chilly-appearing spaces warm up, and are animated successfully by the series of gardens onto which they open out.

12. maki elevations sections blackline 22.05.2018 page 6

12. maki elevations sections blackline 22.05.2018 page 6

Project data 

Start on site March 2016
Completion June 2018
Gross internal floor area 10,173m2
Gross external floor area 10,910m2
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect Maki & Associates
Executive architect Allies and Morrison
Client Aga Khan Development Network 
Development manager Argent
Structural engineer Expedition
M&E engineer Arup
QS Gardiner & Theobald
Garden designers Maki & Associates, Madison Cox Design, Nelson Byrd Woltz, Tom Stuart-Smith
Main contractor BAM
Hard landscape contractor Medusa Stoneworks
Soft landscape executive architect Untitled Practice

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