The Aga Khan Park, which encompasses the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, is a fitting gift to an urban centre described as a “city within a park.” Surrounded by serviceberry trees and soft gravel, the reflective pools are mirrors that draw the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum into the formal garden. On Monday, it will be inaugurated by the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario in the presence of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan.
The park builds on a long established tradition of Islamic gardens and greenspace, which is an important part of the civic fabric in the Muslim world. Indeed, when Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Fatimid ancestors founded and built Cairo between 969 – 974, some 30 hectares — or 20 per cent of the city — was set aside as space for royal parks, gardens and open spaces of gathering. Whether they take the form of agricultural gardens known as bustan in rural areas, or public parks and private courtyards in more densely populated cities, these outdoor spaces offer quiet respite in which to pause, reflect and gather.
When Vladimir Djurovic won the commission to design a new park in Toronto, Mawlana Hazar Imam asked him to start by travelling to different parts of the Muslim world. He explored the Mughal gardens of Humayun’s Tomb and Fatehpur Sikri in India, and the gardens of the Alhambra in Spain.
“He asked me to go on a big, almost worldwide tour, to visit gardens and parks that are thousands of years old.”
“I felt the intent was to do something for generations … It’s not something for now only — what do we leave behind?
I cannot imagine cities without parks.
It’s a very important role because that’s where you reconnect with nature, that’s where you can really be. But how does one design an Islamic inspired garden for a decidedly non-Islamic context?
This was a challenge.
Feeling you are part of a private place, your own sanctuary, in the middle of nature, and berry trees attracting the birds… that will always stay, now and forever.
– Vladimir Djurovic, Lebanese Landscape Architect