The designs of Vladimir Djurovic for the 79,300-square-metre Toronto gardens are an intentional attempt to render contemporary the very spirit of the Islamic garden. “I think that His Highness is happiest when he is working and discussing the gardens. He really wants us to reinterpret the Islamic garden in a contemporary way. We did not copy any garden – it is more about what you feel and smell and hear in an Islamic garden. What it is that I love about Alhambra is the sound of water and the smell of jasmine. I wanted to use a very contemporary language. The architecture of the buildings is very contemporary. The garden must reflect its context as well – a place covered with snow. I like this challenge: how to reinterpret the Islamic garden.”
One area of particular attention and concern in the frigid winter climate of Toronto was the use of water in the gardens. “In one preliminary scheme we created translucent cast acrylic elements with water flowing over the edges. Covered with snow, they would appear like lit ice cubes. The edges would have been angled out so that freezing ice would fall off the edge of the basins,” explains the designer. This idea was abandoned in favour of solid granite basin walls because Djurovic could not vouch for the long-term reliability of acrylic slabs, which tend to turn yellow with time. The newly designed granite basins still have their edges angled out to allow expanding ice to fall out and reduce ice pressure on the walls. A small rose garden is part of a ‘green room’ (multipurpose area for temporary events) that is located behind the formal garden which is between the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre. A ‘stone carpet’ is set at the entrance to the Museum.
All of the elements imagined by Vladimir Djurovic for the Aga Khan Park share a simplicity and regularity bordering on minimalism, though there are frequent surprises and changes of mood, progressing from a more formal configuration near the buildings and becoming less apparently ordered further from the heart of the site. “The Park is first and foremost a giant buffer zone protecting the sanctum of the project and creating a setting for the architectural volume.
The Park is a sanctuary for wildlife and a place for people to immerse themselves in a natural environment. All plants have been selected to entice an array of birds and butterflies and a pond created to help them breed and flourish.” It is this essential modesty, expressed by a younger creator in the context of work with two very accomplished architects, that has allowed Vladimir Djurovic to conceive of a garden that responds to numerous requirements while retaining its own identity.
The Park intends to offer the visitor a contemplative and sensual experience that reaches its peak in the serenity and tranquillity of the formal garden (the heart of the project) embraced by the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre. Having the presence of these two unique institutions embedded within the Park makes this place a special destination. We envision these gardens perpetually changing, with different happenings and activities, becoming true extensions of the life and programmes of both the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum.”
Source: Vladimir Djurovic