The Aga Khan Garden, Alberta, was made possible by a contribution in excess of $25 million by the Aga Khan, Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslim community. The gift arises from the long-standing relationship between the University of Alberta and the Aga Khan, highlighted by a Memorandum of Understanding first signed with the Aga Khan University in 2006 and an honorary doctorate given to the Aga Khan in 2009.
Thomas Woltz, of award-winning Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, was asked by the Aga Khan to study other Mughal Islamic gardens while developing a design that also incorporates the plants and topography of Northern Alberta.
With secluded forest paths, wide, stepped terraces that change with the seasons, geometric water features that stream into wetlands and a spectacular orchard of local plants, the 4.8-hectare Aga Khan Garden will be an amazing experience for area residents and visitors alike. It will be situated around the existing Calla Pond at the heart of the University of Alberta Botanic Garden.
“The Aga Khan Garden will be a place to connect with nature, a place of inspiration and a place where cultural understanding will grow,” said David Turpin, President of the University of Alberta. “We are honoured and grateful that the Aga Khan, a champion of openness and understanding between cultures, selected the University of Alberta for this wonderful gift.”
Believing that parks can be tools for social and economic benefit, The Aga Khan has restored and built magnificent parks and gardens around the globe as part of the broader development programs of the AKDN, including parks in Cairo, Kabul and Delhi. (Aga Khan University is also part of the AKDN.)
The Aga Khan Garden is the first garden in Western Canada, the second in North America, and the 11th in the world to be supported by the Aga Khan.
“On the 150th anniversary of Canada, it is appropriate that we are creating together a Mughal-style garden which echoes the great contributions that Muslims have made to world heritage,” said the Aga Khan. “The Mughals built the Taj Mahal and Humayun’s Tomb and the gardens around them, so the university’s embrace of this project is an inherently pluralistic act. The creation of this garden therefore both deepens an existing partnership and illustrates the pluralistic nature of this country. Measures like this should be encouraged, both here and abroad.”
“Our diversity makes us stronger,” said Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. “This garden will serve as a living reminder of the diverse heritage of our open and welcoming province, which is a big part of what makes Alberta such a great place to live. On behalf of the province, I express my deep gratitude for this generous gift.”
The addition of the new Aga Khan Garden is expected to increase the number of annual visitors to the University of Alberta Botanic Garden from 75,000 to 160,000. An interpretive program will help visitors understand the featured plants and the art and design of the garden. Information about Islamic traditions, music, sound and poetry will also be provided.
The Aga Khan Garden is considered a gift that will celebrate both the 150th anniversary of Canada and the Diamond Jubilee celebrations that mark 60 years since the Aga Khan became the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.
A new Memorandum of Understanding signed on April 7 between the University of Alberta and the Aga Khan University and its sister agencies in the AKDN serves as the foundation for academic, cultural and scientific exchanges in areas of interest and benefit to both institutions.
The University of Alberta Botanic Garden, part of the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, is an award-winning visitor attraction, a 97-hectare research site and home to year-round adult and children’s education programming.
To see videos and design drawings of the new Aga Khan Garden, visit uab.ca/akg.
(Source: University of Alberta)