The Garden of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto
While in Toronto in June we got to see the new Aga Khan Museum, which had opened just the previous September. The museum is a showcase of Islamic art and culture from around the world.
The Aga Khan is the hereditary leader of the Ismailis, a branch of Shia Islam known for a belief in tolerance and pluralism. Toronto’s Ismaili community goes back to the thousands allowed into Canada from Uganda after Idi Amin expelled all Asians in 1972.
Outside the museum there are 10 acres of public space inspired by the gardens of Persia. It feels like a checkerboard with square pools of smooth black stone surrounded by white gravel.
Water reflects the Serviceberry trees planted in blocks that complement the pools. The reflections and the movement of constantly flowing water soften the rigidity of all the geometric shapes.
An Ismaili community and prayer center sits on the other side of the garden.
Long rectangular benches run parallel to the rows of trees. The benches contain planters filled with thyme.
I liked the way that the Serviceberries framed the view of the museum and community center at either end.
Apparently the nurseries of Ontario were scoured to find all the mature Serviceberries needed for this design. I did wonder about the wisdom of of relying so much on a single species, though no doubt the fall foliage and mass of spring flowers are ravishing.
Anyhow, this is a museum and a garden that is worth visiting.
Gorgeous! Happy Thanksgiving, Jason.
Beautiful! I love the thyme in the benches. It looks like a very serene space.
The thyme in the benches is a neat idea.
Gosh, I do like the trees reflected in the square pools. It looks like a very calm, peaceful place. I had to look up serviceberry tree – I know it as amelanchier. We had an A.lamarkii in our old garden and it was a beautiful tree with interest all year round, so I’d say it’s a good choice for here. It’s a real treat to see all these gardens you’ve visited Jason. Thank you for posting about them.
Oops, I usually put the botanical name along with the common. Glad you are enjoying the posts, I like going back over the pictures from summer and writing about them.
I’d never put gravel right next to pools although it may look cool but it certainly isn’t practical.
Huh, I never thought about that. I wonder how they deal with it.
Did you know the architect, Vladimir Djurovic, after winning his commission was asked to travel to Muslim countries around the world to immerse himself in the culture and to see/understand the designs of Islamic inspired gardens? While the museum is decidedly modern, it holds fundamental sensibilities sympathetic to those older designs.
I would be interested to know more about the architect. I see that his name is Bosnian (?) but he lives in Beirut, which suggests an interesting mix of cultural influences.
Ahh another place I had almost visited on our last visit to Toronto. I was visiting a school friend in the Don Mills area (where this museum is located). She had planned a visit to the Aga Khan museum among other things – we were both so disappointed to learn that the museum was closed on Mondays. This will definitely be worth a visit on our next trip though, you’ve captured it all very well.
I think they have a lot more now in their exhibits inside than they did when we were there.
Very nice for a modern looking garden. Funny how the modern look is really a throw back of many centuries.
True – minimalists, ancient and contemporary.
Thanks. Hope you had a good Thanksgiving.
The benches with thyme are beautiful! Like you, I wonder about using the same species of tree everywhere, but it must be a beautiful sight in the spring.
I like the thyme seats and the tranquil look of the space.
The thyme seats are a wonderful feature.
That’s an interesting choice of plants. I wish I knew how long it took the powers that be to agree to those particular choices!
I’m guessing the Aga Khan makes all executive decisions, so perhaps not that long.
The garden looks like a very serene, meditative space.
I would say so.
I agree, the garden does look very serene, perhaps the smooth black stone around the water creates that feeling. Another interesting place to visit for us (one day!)
Yes, the black pools had a sort of quiet to them.
I must say the clean lines and simplicity are beautiful in themselves, gives you time to think and breath for sure. Lovely to see this.xxx
There was a quietude there I liked.
This museum and surrounding landscape looks magnificent. I have a serviceberry in my front yard and it is a lovely tree.
Looks stunning and I really like the strength the sole use of serviceberry gives to the design.
Huh, I never equated this sort of simplicity with strength, but I see what you mean.
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I do admire minimalism, especially since it is such a contrast to most of the gardens we see.
I’m more of a “cram your garden to the limit” sort of gardener but this sort of garden makes a restful change.
I had never heard of this museum and I love the this garden…
It’s a very new museum. Not so far from you, either.
Hi Jason, it’s all rather stark and minimalist and I’m not sure I like it at all. I’m at the complete opposite end of the spectrum and something about this kind of style unnerves me. However, I bet it looks fabulous in the spring when the trees are flowering.
I also like a garden bursting with color, but as you say all those Amelanchiers must be a sight when the bloom in spring.