AGA KHAN MUSEUM - A cultural bridge between the Middle East and the West
Monday, 22 September 2014, 07:16:41 PM
With great joy for our city and nation, this week was open to the public the wonderful urban architectural complex dedicated to the promotion of Muslim culture built by the Aga Kahn Foundation, comprised of the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre in Toronto.
Two buildings with different complementary uses, united by a minimalist landscape offer visitors a contemporary space, with open and closed areas in a privileged site; allowing the feel that the flow of natural elements like water, earth, light and air, can still be found in a prime urban location.
The Aga Khan Museum, unique in North America was conceived as an educational institution in the fields of art and Muslim culture in order to promote knowledge and understanding within their societies and other cultures. The need to reduce the increasing division and misunderstandings between cultures of the Middle East and the West was the key factor for His Highness the Aga Khan, in the decision to undertake a project of this magnitude. Canada, world leader in its commitment to welcome immigrants with different traditions and beliefs that share common values, was the country chosen by the foundation to house the museum and from there to meet the objective of deepening the understanding between different cultures, essential for peace and progress in the world. Toronto has a significant concentration of Muslims and offers a strategic location that allows reaching an audience of over 60 million people within an hour's flight.
The museum was designed by renowned Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki in a contemporary style with simple lines and sloping profile where light plays a major factor, treated with unique skylights. The first floor contains a central courtyard comprised of glass panels with Arabic patterns which figures are consistently reflected by the sun's rays. The permanent exhibition offers a number of unique pieces from different Muslim cultural manifestations showing its influence from the Middle East to North Africa and Europe. The second floor houses temporary exhibitions, including modern artists. The auditorium has a majestic dome with geometric and light shapes reminiscent of a nineteenth-century Iranian bazaar. A cozy restaurant offers delicacies from the Middle East with magnificent outdoor views.
The Ismaili Centre was designed by Charles Correa, renowned architect and planner from India. The heart of the building is a majestic glass dome with metal structure that serves as a sacred place of prayer. The building offers various meeting rooms, as well as informational and study areas to learn about their culture and religion. Large windows decorated with intricate patterns are used to separate private and public spaces and in all the cases natural light and walk out to open air terraces is a constant feature.
Lebanese landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic, joined the two buildings using a geometric composition of infinity pools aligned with a precise selection of trees, offering a state of calmness perfect to admire the vegetation and landscape that changes with the seasons. The reflection of all the elements, influenced on the Alhambra and the Taj Mahal, offers a magical visual spectacle not to be missed.
Let us seize the opportunity presented by these new spaces to awaken our intellectual curiosity and recreate our senses.