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28 February 2024 - 28 February 2024

12:00PM - 1:00PM

Online - Zoom

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Part of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing Guest Lecture Series 2023/24 and is delivered as part of the Durham URIs: Global research tackling global challenges events

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Hospital team

In 1970, after interviewing several architects based in Britain, France and the USA, His Highness the Aga Khan IV chose Boston-based Thomas Payette as the architect and Mozhan Khadem, an Iranian architect, as the design consultant to design the Aga Khan Medical Complex in Karachi, Pakistan. Payette and Khadem designed the Complex in 1972/73 together with a group of health consultants, a landscape designer, a local design consultant and several tilemakers. The construction of the Complex, which consisted of a 721-bed hospital, a medical school for 500 students, a school of nursing, housing for staff and students and a mosque, was completed in 1985. Prior to designing the Complex, Payette and Khadem visited Spain, North Africa, Turkey, Persia and Pakistan to study historic hospitals and buildings. Payette called this trip a “process of discovery”, stating that “the results freed us from some of our Western assumptions about what a hospital ought to be”. This paper will contemplate this statement by examining the architecture of the Aga Khan Medical Complex in Karachi in the context of hospital architecture in the middle decades of the twentieth century. It shows how the design team’s purpose was to put forward a different vision distinct from both the capitalist West and the Socialist East. This vision focused on “all-encompassing unity” of “spirit and body” and “man and nature” by drawing on prevailing ideas concerning Islamic architecture that, for example, were being discussed in Persia by the likes of Mohammad Karim Pirnia.

An Abstract Booklet featuring all events in this series is available here. 



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Fenk, Anne-Katrin, Rachel Lee & Monika Motylińska (2020): Unlikely collaborations? Planning experts from both sides of the Iron Curtain and the making of Abuja. In: Comparativ 20, 38–59.

Honarmand Ebrahimi, Sara (2023): The lived experience of hospital design. A case study on internationalism. In: HEX Digital Handbook of the History of Experience ( hexhandbook/cases-and-sources/the-lived-experience-of-hospital-design-a-case-study-on-inter-nationalism/).

Levin, Ayala (2022): Architecture and Development. Israeli Construction in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Settler Colonial Imagination, 1958–1973, Durham, NC & London.

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Wills, Julie, Philip Goad & Cameron Logan (2019): Architecture and the Modern Hospital. ‘Nosokomeion’ to ‘Hygeia’, London & New York.