Project DescriptionThe Aga Khan Park lies on the outskirts of Toronto’s city centre in a dense setting surrounded by high traffic streets and highways. It occupies a 17- acre site where two institutional buildings are housed: the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre, Toronto. The Park’s aspiration was not only to embrace and unify these two buildings, but also to offer a serene and contemplative space. Moreover, the project had to create an inviting environment in which educational, social, and community activities initiated by the Museum and Ismaili Centre could be held in warm weather.
A formal garden inspired by traditional Islamic gardens around the world functions as the central feature of the entire Park. Surrounded by a densely planted buffer zone and conceived as the outdoor extension of the Museum and Ismaili Centre, the formal garden captures the essence of Islamic gardens, translating them into an expression that reflects its context - both geographical and temporal.
Embracing the five senses, every space within the formal garden is imbued with the delicate sensations that we seem to have lost in this fast-paced era. The ephemeral and the eternal are both essential to the composition of spaces. Shadows, light, petals, leaves and water in motion are complemented by the solidity and purity of created forms.
The formal garden extends the Museum’s entrance out into the Park, while framing a reflection of the Ismaili Centre's glass dome as a sculptural feature in the garden. Within an expanse of loose gravel, five water islands in solid raised black granite channels are placed in chaharbagh composition, a classic Islamic geometric arrangement. Amongst them emerges an orchard of native Serviceberry trees, a contemporary boustan. With its white spring blossoms, edible summer fruit, autumn colour and stark presence in the winter snow, the orchard infuses the space with seasonal perfumes.
On either side of the orchard, two large open spaces provide ample room to host gatherings, performances, and events as a direct extension of the Museum and Ismaili Centre’s programs.
The surrounding Park embraces and buffers this formal garden while providing grounds for walking and jogging. In doing so, it links two previously disconnected parts of the city.
The Park responds to the original competition’s brief of integrating two unique buildings, the Ismaili Centre, Toronto and the Aga Khan Museum, into a coherent whole that not only brings unity to the complex, but also becomes a gift to the city of Toronto and its people.