It may not officially be Spring yet, but the many bouts of warmer weather that Toronto is experiencing certainly makes us anxious for the season to arrive in it’s full glory. It’s like we are being teased, the temperature rising just enough for us to get that itch to get outside and enjoy all the city has to offer. So, if you’re looking for somewhere new to explore on one of these atypical sunny afternoons, here’s a cultural amenity that’s suitable for the whole family: the Aga Khan Museum. With stunning architecture, water features, manicured gardens and opportunities to dine al fresco, the museum is at it’s best in warmer weather.
While many of Toronto’s museums are located near the downtown core, the Aga Khan is situated in midtown. It focuses exclusively on Muslim civilizations, both from historical and contemporary perspectives. The space also includes a stunning public park!
AKDN / Janet Kimber
If you’re looking for something you’ve never seen before, this is the museum in Toronto to visit! It’s a small but impressive collection, displayed in a quiet and meditative atmosphere. And with events and narratives unfolding around the world as they are, It’s all the more important for Canadians to experience Islamic and Iranian art and the culture of the Muslim world.
The main attraction is the museum’s permanent collection, a selection of historic Islamic art chosen from the family holdings of the Aga Khan, the European billionaire businessman and noted humanitarian (who is also the 49th hereditary leader of the Ismaili Muslim community). The collection includes such rarities as Persian ceramics dating back as early as the 10th century, fine Indian miniatures from the 1500s and 1600s, and centuries-old rare Asian robes. You’ll also find illuminated copies of the Quran, artisanal tiles, and handwoven rugs. Temporary exhibits also grace the museum month to month, bringing unique collections of Pakistani art or Mughal paintings, for example.
The architecture of the museum is absolutley stunning – arguably worth the trip, even if you don’t make it to the exhibits themselves!
The 10,000 square-metre museum was designed by Pritzker Prize winner Fumihiko Maki, while the formal gardens and large park (Aga Khan Park) that surround it were designed by landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic. Maki, Djurovic and Charles Correa (designer of the combined Ismaili Centre) worked in collaboration with the Toronto-based architectural firm Moriyama and Teshima, the architects of record on the project.
The exterior is a collection of folded angular walls clad with white Brazilian granite. “The exterior walls taper outwards at the top and bottom, designed to catch the movement of the sun, while window reveals form deep recesses in the stone surfaces.” -Dezeen
All of the contributing creators and architects began their designs with a focus on the idea of ‘light’; the many modulations of this singular concept make the space varied and cohesive all at once.
Images courtesy of Moriyama & Teshima Architects
While some spaces are bright and white – all clean lines and open volumes – others are a riot of colour and medley of intricate shapes!
Images courtesy of Moriyama & Teshima Architects
Sharing the space with the museum is the world’s sixth Ismaili Centre, represening the permanent presence of Ismaili Muslims in the city, and opened by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan on September 12, 2014. The leaders of the project called it an “ambassadorial space intended to foster understanding” the Ismaili community. Oft mistaken as part of the museum, one standout feature is the glass roof of the prayer hall, which calls to mind the domes that outfit religious structures throughout the Muslim world.
Aga Khan isn’t just a feast for the eyes and ears – you can now enjoy authentic cuisine curated by renowned chef Mark McEwan. After making a name for himself at the Sutton Hotel, North 44, Bymark, ONE, and Fabbrica, and opening two grocery emporiums at Shops On Don Mills, McEwan now brings his culinary magic to all food & beverage services at the museum – including on-site restaurant, Diwan, and the museum’s Courtyard Cafe.
At the elegant Diwan restaurant in the museum’s Dimascus Room (which evokes the luxury of a private Syrian home in the early 19th century!), Chef McEwan offers a wide-ranging lunch menu that showcases his innovative approaches to Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian cuisine. (He also offers themed dinners on select evenings!)
Before you stop by, check out their Events Calendar to see if there are any special exhibits or performances you’d like to see and when they begin!
How enriching would it be to have this pinnacle of cultural destination within walking distance of your home? For the lucky new owner of this House-Sized Highgate Condominium At Wynford/Eglinton, now SOLD, the Aga Khan ise just one of many fabulous neighbourhood amenities!! Dreamy!
Have questions? We’re here to help!
~ The Urbaneer Team
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – (416) 322-8000
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Hero Image: AKM / Janet Kimber