The creation of parks and gardens has been an important part of AKDN's work in several rapidly urbanising cities in the developing world, including Cairo, Bamako, Kabul and Delhi.
In appreciation of Canada's exemplary support for development programmes in these countries, the AKDN has presented several parks and gardens as gifts to Canadian cities — in Toronto and Edmonton — in the hope that they will enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.
Aga Khan Park, Toronto
Lebanon-based landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic designed the formal gardens of the Aga Khan Park. Based on a traditional Persian and Mughal chahar bagh (four-part garden), the gardens are given a natural geometry through ordered plantings of serviceberry trees. They provide a tranquil place for contemplation as well as flexible areas for public programming or private events.
Beyond a perimeter of cedar hedges, the gardens flow seamlessly into a Park whose trees — including Star Magnolia, River Birch, Trembling Aspen, and Weeping Cherry — were chosen for their varied colours and shapes as well as their ability to withstand the Canadian climate.
Shrubs and plants best suited to attract birds and butterflies are also planted throughout the Park, and include Rose Glow Barberry, Chinese Wisteria, and Forsythia bushes.
Before finalising his designs, Djurovic was encouraged by His Highness the Aga Khan to visit traditional gardens around the world, such as the Tomb of Humayun in New Delhi and the Alhambra’s courtyard gardens in Granada. Djurovic ultimately aimed not to duplicate these historical exemplars but to communicate “more what you feel and smell and hear” there.
The Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, and the Aga Khan Park harmonize spirit, art, and nature in a 21st-century context while maintaining a core connection to the history of Muslim civilisations.
Islamic Garden, Edmonton
The Aga Khan Development Network has long-standing ties and collaborative projects with the University of Alberta.
As a show of gratitude, His Highness the Aga Khan has funded the creation of an Islamic Garden at the University’s Devonian Botanic Garden. The garden is organised by four primary experiences: a woodland walk, a central court, a central axis and a meandering bustan (orchard), all tied together by long and medium views across the existing Calla Pond.
When completed, it will be a unique garden in North America and a place that will be enlivened by programming focusing on the plurality of Muslim cultures and their artistic expressions.