Last week a ceremony to mark the beginning of the development of the Ismaili Centre, the first-ever Aga Khan Museum for Islamic Art and Culture was held inthe park where they will be situated in Toronto’s Don Mills area. The development of these projects, an initiative of His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims seeks to foster knowledge and understanding both within Muslim societies and between these societies and other cultures. The Aga Khan Museum and its collection reflect the plurality of the Muslim world, while the adjacent Ismaili Centre will create spaces for interaction and dialogue. Together, they will offer platforms for the search for mutual understanding among all communities and cultures.
Situated on a 6.8 hectare site along a major artery of Toronto, the Don Valley Parkway, the buildings and park represent the Aga Khan’s commitment to Canada and appreciation for the country’s adherence to pluralism and cultural diversity. Designed by renowned architect Charles Correa, the Ismaili Centre, Toronto will be the newest addition to a network of Ismaili Centres worldwide, and will be the second in Canada after the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby which opened in 1985. The Centres are representational buildings for the Ismaili Muslim community, and will include a place of prayer, library and spaces for cultural activities. The Centre will host an active series of programming to engage a variety of stakeholders in dialogue, learning, and bridge-building. This is Correa’s first commission in Canada.
The Aga Khan Museum, devoted to Islamic art, is an educational institution showcasing the intellectual, cultural, artistic and religious heritage of Muslim civilizations with their historic, cultural and geographic diversity. The Aga Khan Museum has been designed by the award-winning Japanese architect, Fumihiko Maki, who also designed the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa.
The two projects will be united by a new landscaped park, designed by Lebanese landscape architect, Vladimir Djurovic. The park will incorporate the Islamic “chaar bhag” or formal garden, and will include reflecting pools, walkways, and four-season components suited to the climate of Toronto. The Park will be open to the public and is intended to be a place of tranquility and contemplation.