Building on a duke’s legacy: Mawlana Hazar Imam gives back in his own neighbourhood of Chantilly – The Ismaili org article

A view from the Auberge du Jeu de Paume. Photo: Gary Otte
Looking out over the Domaine de Chantilly from the Auberge du Jeu de Paume. Photo: Gary Otte

In 1884, Henri Eugène Philippe Louis d’Orléans, a prince of France better known as the duc d’Aumale (Duke of Aumale), bequeathed a 20 thousand-acre estate to the Institut de France. The ancient property — whose records can be traced as far back as the 14th century — included a park, manicured gardens, a grand stables, and the historic Chateau de Chantilly.

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Adjacent to the exhibition space is the Auberge du Jeu de Paume, a hotel built by Mawlana Hazar Imam to revitalise the urban area surrounding the Domaine de Chantilly. Part of a comprehensive plan to increase the number of tourists who visit the area, the hotel complements the efforts undertaken by the Fondation de Chantilly. Profits from the Auberge will provide a sustainable source of income for the preservation and future development of the Domaine, and Hazar Imam has indicated his intention to gift the hotel to the Institut de France for that purpose.

The inauguration also marked the re-opening of the adjacent Jardin Anglais, the cobbled rue du Connétable and its distinct archway, the porte Saint-Denis, that lead visitors into the Chantilly estate.

Drawing on the Imamat’s vast experience of cultural revitalisation, Mawlana Hazar Imam noted that in order to succeed, the restoration of a historic place must “fit into an overall plan for the city at large and be sustainable over time.”

Mawlana Hazar Imam and other dignitaries take a walk through the recently restored Jardin anglais. Photo: Gary Otte
Mawlana Hazar Imam and other dignitaries take a walk through the recently restored Jardin anglais. Photo: Gary Otte

“It is a delicate exercise,” said Hazar Imam, adding that to succeed one must account for the wishes of the area’s inhabitants, their civic representatives, and the expectations of potential visitors. “But one must also immerse oneself in the history of the place, its profound culture and its economic life.”

And there remains much more to come in the years ahead. The Museum of the Horse is being upgraded and transformed, and will feature exhibitions on the civilisations of the horse in the Orient, Europe and the Americas. The first phase of this project is scheduled to open in June 2013 in the Cours des Remises of the Grand Stables.

“Chantilly is a giant that is awakening,” said Mawlana Hazar Imam in a June 2012 interview with Le Parisien. “It is my conviction that the end result will justify the effort.”

The duc d’Aumale would undoubtedly agree.

Mawlana Hazar Imam takes part in a ribbon cutting, marking the completion of four new projects in the Domaine de Chantilly and the opening of the Delacroix art exhibition in the Salle du Jeu de Paume. Photo: Gary Otte
Mawlana Hazar Imam takes part in a ribbon cutting, marking the completion of four new projects in the Domaine de Chantilly and the opening of the Delacroix art exhibition in the Salle du Jeu de Paume. Photo: Gary Otte
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