Ismaili Center USA, Farshid Moussavi, Iranian architects, British architects, Aga Khan

Iranian architect Farshid Moussavi selected over Rem Koolhaas and David Chipperfield to design Ismaili centre in US

Shiraz-born British architect Farshid Moussavi, founder of her namesake studio Farshid Moussavi Architecture, has been selected ahead of Rem Koolhaas, Jeanne Gang and David Chipperfield to design the first Ismaili cultural centre in the US. 

Located in Houston, Texas, the 11-acre site will be the seventh centre dedicated to the Shia Ismaili Muslim community worldwide, following stations in London, Lisbon, Dubai, Toronto, British Columbia and Dushanbe. 

While little has be revealed about the winning design, it will likely follow design principles that protect the core values of Isma'ilism. In addition, each centre is intended to merge the principles of Islamic design with the surrounding city to make them architecturally unique. 

“The rigorous competition was a vivid illustration of the global stature that an Ismaili Center holds in the architectural and built environment community, and of the attractiveness of Houston as a destination city for world-scale architecture,” said Dr. Barkat Fazal, president of the Ismaili Council for USA. 

According to the Houston Chronicle, the Aga Khan Foundation bought the Houston property in 2006, and in 2011, it donated seven monumental artworks, including Jaume Plensa’s “Tolerance” sculptures of kneeling figures, to the Buffalo Bayou Park. 

Moussavi will work alongside Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, Hanif Khan of structural engineering firm AKT II and Paul Westlake of design firm DLR Group to design the Ismaili centre. 

The Houston Chronicle further reported that the building will likely occupy less space than the project's landscaping and contain outdoor spaces that connect visually to the nearby park. 

The centre will also house a Jamatkhana, a place for spiritual contemplation, and prayer services. 

Moussavi said she was honoured to work on the project: "It will bring Houston's diverse communities together in a unique space for cultural, educational and social activities.

"Our team brings a broad perspective for the Ismaili Center, with diverse skills and experience in international practice, scholarly research, multidisciplinary thinking and delivering cultural projects successfully in the United States."