The 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. The Park’s aspiration was not only to embrace and unify these two buildings, but also to offer a serene and contemplative space.
A formal garden inspired by traditional Islamic gardens 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 new context.
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 and activities 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 are set 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. The Park not only integrates the two buildings into a coherent whole and unifies the complex, but also becomes a valuable gift to the city of Toronto and its people.