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Our Mission


The mission of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA) is to promote the study and understanding of Islamic arts and cultures.

Foundation Overview

In accordance with Doris Duke’s will (1912-93), DDFIA was created in 1998 to promote the study and understanding of Islamic arts and cultures. DDFIA’s activities include:

  • The management and preservation of Doris Duke's former home in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, known as Shangri La which today serves as a center for Islamic arts and cultures. Shangri La is one of three properties which Doris Duke requested be opened for public visitation and used for educational programs.
  • Awarding grants through the Building Bridges Program which is based in New York and supports the use of arts and media to enhance Americans’ understanding of Muslim societies.

Based in New York, DDFIA is one of three operating foundations supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Shangri La

Built in Honolulu, Hawai‘i from 1936-1938, Shangri La overlooks the Pacific Ocean and Diamond Head and houses Doris Duke’s collection of Islamic art. Of the many homes that Duke inhabited, Shangri La is the only one that she built from the ground up and filled from the inside out.

Doris Duke decided to build a seasonal home in Honolulu after her honeymoon in 1935, which took her through the Islamic world for the first time and included an extended stay in Hawai‘i. Finding herself captivated by Islamic art and architecture and enamored with Hawai‘i, Duke designed her new home in collaboration with architect Marion Sims Wyeth to evoke the beauty and character of each.

The five acre complex integrates a 14,000-square-foot house, a Playhouse, and a pool, comprising a series of interlocking spaces, both indoors and out: rooms, courtyards, lanais, terraces, gardens, and numerous water features. While design and early construction were underway, Duke traveled extensively in the Middle East, visiting historical monuments and providing the architect with photographs of architectural decoration to be incorporated into Shangri La’s design. She also placed large commissions with contemporary artisans in India, Morocco, Iran, and Syria to create art and architectural elements, utilizing traditional forms, patterns, and means of fabrication. Throughout the property, traditional Islamic art and architectural elements blend with a modernist sensibility; for example the contrast between the ornate Moroccan living room ceiling and the adjacent glass wall that fully retracts into the basement is a key example of the synthesis of tradition and modernism that defines the house’s aesthetic.

For nearly 60 years, Doris Duke continued to collect Islamic art, ultimately forming a collection of about 2,500 objects, many of which are embedded into the structure of the house. Iranian ceramic tile panels, carved and painted ceilings from Morocco, jalis (perforated screen) doors and windows, and textiles and carpets create a living environment of Islamic art and architectural decoration. Today, Shangri La is nationally recognized for its high artistic value and as one of Hawai‘i’s most architecturally significant homes. It is open to the public for guided tours and educational programs such as lectures, performances and occasional symposia. Shangri La also supports residencies for contemporary artists and for scholars researching Islamic art.

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