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TITLEBaha'i Architect (82) Receives Honorary Degree: Transcript
ABSTRACTGraduation ceremony at the University of British Columbia honoring Dr. Hossein Amanat, architect of the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, who shares his insightful perspective.
NOTES Transcript prepared by Doug Couper from video online at
TAGSAlan Coupe; Canada; Hossein Amanat (Husayn Amanat)

1. Transcript (see video below)

Baha'i Architect (82) Receives Honorary Degree
uploaded by Los Angeles Baha'i Center
2024 May 31
11:57 minutes
Video description: Celebrating UBC's graduation with Dr. Hossein Amanat, 82, architect of the Baha'i Faith's "Universal House of Justice", sharing his insightful perspective.
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Every year at Convocation, UBC has the honour of bestowing honorary degrees upon individuals who, in the opinion of the university community, have fit the criteria of excellence and eminence in their chosen field. Hossein Amanat is one of those individuals and I invite him to step forward to receive his honorary degree - Dr. Amanat.

Mr. Chancellor, Hossein Amanat has long held a prominent place among the world's most accomplished modern architects. Born in Tehran, Iran, he established his international reputation by age 24 when he won a nationwide competition for the design of Tehran's Shahyad Tower (renamed the Azadi Tower following the 79 Iranian revolution). The tower has now become a national symbol. This early success led to commissions in some of Iran's most prestigious modern buildings including the Persian Heritage Handicraft Centre, the Sharif University compound, Tehran's University School of Business Management and the Iranian Embassy in Beijing.

Not only was it remarkable that a young architect was entrusted with such prestigious commissions, but also significant that he was amongst the first Iranian architects to distinguish their work by adhering to contemporary principles while applying lessons from traditional Persian architecture. After moving to Canada in 1980, his practice expanded and diversified from his design of the world administrative centre (of) the Baha'i Faith in Haifa to university libraries and high-tech factories in China to mixed-use complexes in North America, including a 52-storey residential highrise right here in Vancouver. Mr. Amanat remains active today as principal of a Vancouver-based firm. In all his projects, he continues to demonstrate his unique skill for applying diverse cultural themes in distinctive designs.

His latest project, a shrine memorial, attests to his continuing creative ability spanning over six decades. He has lectured extensively on art, architecture and sustainable design at several universities and cultural institutions for over twenty years. He has taught and mentored online students of architecture deprived of attending the state-run institutes of higher education in Iran. Mr Chancellor, in recognition of a lifetime of achievement and a prominent place in the pantheon of great architects, I ask you to confer the degree Doctor of Letters honoris causa upon Hossein Amanat [Applause]

By the authority of the Senate of this University, I confer upon you Hossein Amanat the title and degree Doctor of Letters honoris causa. Congratulations. [Applause] [Music] [Applause]It now gives me great pleasure to introduce Dr Hossein Amanat for his remarks.

Thank you. Mr Chancellor, thank you for this great honour and thanks to the University of British Columbia and the School of Architecture. This is a memorable moment in my career of some sixty years. Forty-four of these years was (sic) spent practising architecture in (the) beautiful city of Vancouver. I am thankful for all the opportunities, the safety and freedom - especially (the) freedom that Canada has generously offered to me and my family free from ethnic or religious discrimination. I come from Iran, a country of an ancient tradition of design and construction lasting at least three millennia - a tradition embedded in rich and complex culture. I am indebted to this culture with all its material and artistic creativity, its intellectual and poetic accomplishments and specifically its architecture.

In old cities at the edge of the central desert of Iran, cities like Yazd or Kashan (which happens to be my ancestral city), design and construction techniques were devised to endure the harsh desert environment. Inventions such as subterranean water canals, ventilating wind towers and water reservoirs (structures now recognized for their sustainability and environment function), urban design concepts such as the city square or maidan, the bazaar, the caravanserai, the mosques and other public buildings with their distinct arches and domes which has (sic) travelled widely across the region as far as the Indian subcontinent and western China. As a student of architecture under my mentors (specific names cited), I visited many of these structures and was inspired by the beauty and functionality of them.

It became my lifelong quest to discover the mysteries that govern these spaces that make such an impact on (the) human soul. In many instances, I found their design elements and geometry compatible with principles of modern architecture. I have also come to appreciate other architectural traditions, ancient and modern, and have tried to learn from their artistic achievements and subtleties. As a contemporary architect, I also appreciated classical Greek architecture and applied its principles in my design and in doing so, discovered the mystery and beautiful intricacies of this design language. I also learned from many other contemporary architects. The Japanese architects (and) the modesty with which they have applied elements of their artistic past to their buildings, the 20th-century western architects from Bauhaus to Wright to Arthur Erickson, Khan and Gehry among others, have all been a source of admiration and engagement for me. In retrospect, I can see with greater clarity how all of the above have influenced my work - some consciously and perhaps unconsciously.

The Shahyad Monument is an example of references to the history and culture of the country. It is for this reason that half a century after its completion, it has continued to be a physical symbol of today's Iranian identity. Shahyad's message is one of belonging and continuity - belonging to a modern and inclusive society, and continuity of a complex and diverse history and a deep culture and geometry. In my most recent design of (the) Bahai Shrine now under construction, the same sense of continuity is expressed through its intricate geometry and traditional references.

Mr. Chancellor, it is reassuring that UBC is paying greater attention to Persian language and culture by expanding the department. This is not only because of the growing number of immigrants from the Persianate world but also Canada's unique experiment with multiculturalism and cross-pollination - a noble task that one would hope UBC will pursue and Mr. Chancellor, I will be honoured to play a part toward that goal. Thank you. [Applause]

Dr. Amanat. Thank you so much for your kind words, for your interest in our Persian Studies program, for your inspiration to our architecture (and) landscape architecture students among all of our other students.

2. Video

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