Ismaili Centre

Architects: Casson Conder Partnership

Audio described architecture tour for Open House Weekend 2014 led by VocalEyes Describer Willie Elliott with Owen Hopkins, writer, historian, curator of architecture and Manager of the Architecture Programme at the Royal Academy with Laila Nazira from the Ismaili Centre.

The Ismaili Centre, London was opened on 24 April 1985 by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam. They were joined by government ministers, members of Parliament, diplomats and leaders of the Ismaili community from around the world.

The Centre was widely acclaimed by architectural critics for its design and craftsmanship. The architect was Neville Conder of Casson Conder Partnership of London, with traditional elements of the Islamic interior designed by Karl Schlamminger, a German-born Muslim.
Part of an international family of Ismaili Centres, this is the first religious, cultural and social space for the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim community in the West. From the serenity of the entrance fountain to the remarkable roof garden, it draws upon Islamic traditions in architecture and design while remaining conscious of its context. A sanctuary of calm amidst the bustle of the city.
Designed for the Ismaili Muslim community, this building provides for its religious cultural and social needs and serves a large number of people for a variety of formal and informal occasions.

In designing this building the architect came to understand that the emblematic significance of architecture passes unnoticed to those working entirely within the context of their own culture. For the English, trabeated architecture, whether classical or modern, has no emblematic significance except for the fact that it is comfortably familiar, while for others such architecture can be rich in associations that are exclusively Western. It was only at the end of the design process that the architects were able to look back at the earlier studies and see such connotations, and the avoidance of them in the finished work has been achieved by many minor but consistent design decisions, in particular those relating to the graphic qualities worked into the granite face of the building.

Do visit the Ismaili Centre website to find out more about the centre and their work.

Audio playlist