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Farshid Moussavi pips Chipperfield and OMA to win Houston Ismaili Centre contest

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Farshid Moussavi Architecture has won a competition to design a landmark Ismaili Centre in Houston, Texas

The London-based architect – working with AKT II, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects and local practice DLR Group – was chosen from a star-studded shortlist which included David Chipperfield Architects, Studio Gang and OMA.

The building will be a religious, social and cultural meeting place for the city’s Ismaili Muslim community. It will be the first such centre to be built in the US and the seventh worldwide.

Moussavi’s scheme will occupy a 4.5ha site overlooking the Buffalo Bayou waterway at the junction of Montrose Boulevard and Allen Parkway in central Houston. 

Houston is home to one of the largest Ismaili Muslim communities in the US. The branch of Shi Islam has around 15 million members worldwide and is led by the Aga Khan who founded the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1977.

Moussavi – who received an OBE in last year’s Queen’s birthday honours list – chaired the Aga Khan Award for Architecture master jury in 2004 and was a member of the award’s steering committee from 2005 to 2015.

Commenting on the appointment, she said: ‘Our team brings a broad perspective for the Ismaili Centre, with diverse skills and experience in international practice, scholarly research, multidisciplinary thinking and delivering cultural projects successfully in the United States.

‘I am honoured to partner with the Ismaili Muslim community to design the new Ismaili Centre in Houston. It will bring Houston’s diverse communities together in a unique space for cultural, educational and social activities.’

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said: ‘The Ismaili Centre will be a place where Houstonians of all backgrounds, faiths, and walks of life will find engaging, thoughtful, and compassionate programmes and people.

‘That will be in keeping with Ismaili values and the values of the Ismaili leader, the Aga Khan, who last visited Houston in March 2018. It’s fitting that the centre will be designed by a world-renowned architect who has lived, studied and worked around the world, and that the green space will be designed by a landscape architect who has already worked on a major Houston park. This is a milestone for our city.’

The announcement of the new building comes more than 30 years after Casson Condor Partnership completed the first Ismaili Centre in South Kensington, London. Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki also completed a new Aga Khan Centre in King’s Cross, London last year.

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