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.


37 Comments on “The Garden of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Pingback: The Garden of the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto | gardeninacity | Ismailimail

  5. 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.

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