Trip to famed Islamic gardens inspired Aga Khan Park in Toronto

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Trip to famed Islamic gardens inspired Aga Khan Park in Toronto

Trip to famed Islamic gardens inspired Aga Khan Park in Toronto

Sometimes works of art spring from a flash of inspiration. Just as often, they come from years of reflection, planning, revision and collaboration. In the case of the new Aga Khan Park, it was a mix of the two.

The formal garden near Don Mills and Eglinton in Toronto is a thing of beauty. Spreading out between the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre, it features five big reflecting pools in a field of soft gravel. Rows of serviceberry trees shade granite benches. A bed of Russian sage, which flowers purple, offsets the black stone of the pools and the white of the gravel. The pools mirror the sky and the monumental buildings at either end. The water spilling over their edges makes a soothing murmur that acts against the muted roar of the nearby Don Valley Parkway.

This is the ninth park project of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which has rebuilt and restored Islamic parks and gardens from Cairo to Kabul. It had its official opening on Monday afternoon, presided over by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims. To get to that moment took more than 10 painstaking years that included scores of meetings and dozens of international trips.

Landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic told the story as he toured me around the park on Monday morning. Mr. Djurovic is based in Beirut, where he leads a firm of 25 that does landscape work around the world. The son of a father from Montenegro and mother from Lebanon, he learned his trade in Britain and the United States before going back home to build his practice in Lebanon, then bouncing back from years of civil war. []

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