The most significant opening of a building in Toronto this year is not a new skyscraping addition to our skyline, but a pair of ground-hugging cultural and religious institutions surrounded by 6.8 hectares of parkland in Don Mills. An oasis of calm and contemplative design, both in the serene yet bold and hard-edged geometry of the buildings, and in the softness of the surrounding landscape, the Aga Khan Museum and the adjoining Ismaili Centre make a momentous addition to Toronto's cultural mosaic, unmatched in many years.

Aga Khan IV and Prime Minister Harper open the Aga Khan Museum, TorontoThe Aga Khan and Prime Minister Harper pose in front of the Aga Khan Museum, image by Jack Landau

Opened in a pair of ceremonies last week before hundreds of invited members of the Ismaili community and many Canadian dignitaries, the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered thanks to all involved in the realization of the institutions, spoke of their aspirations for a more educated, tolerant, and inclusive world, and how the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre would play a part in that. Everyone was then welcomed to the new buildings.

Aga Khan IV and Prime Minister Harper open the Ismaili Centre, TorontoThe Aga Khan and Prime Minister Harper open the Ismaili Centre, image by Jack Landau

The Ismaili Centre, Toronto, is the sixth such centre in the world along with those in London, Burnaby BC, Lisbon, Dubai, and Dushanbe. Each hosts programmes meant to stimulate the intellect, encourage dialogue, and celebrate cultural diversity through lectures, seminars, exhibitions, and cultural and social events. The Ismaili Centre's activities are meant to foster an understanding of the values, ethics, culture and heritage of Ismaili Muslims, and of the work of the Aga Khan Development Network across the world.

Shelly Glover, Aga Khan, Prime Minister Harper, Prince Amyn, TorontoHeritage Minister Shelly Glover, Prime Minister Harper, the Aga Khan, and Prince Amyn on stage, image by Jack Landau

Following the opening of the Ismaili Centre, the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Harper moved across to the Aga Khan Museum where they were joined in the auditorium by Minister of Heritage Shelly Glover and the Aga Khan's brother, Prince Amyn, who had overseen the development of the site on the Aga Khan's behalf. Ms. Glover and the Prince each spoke on the significance of the new museum before the Aga Khan and the Prime Minister unveiled a plaque commemorating the event, as they had done at the end of the Ismaili Centre opening.

Aga Khan IV and Prime Minister Harper open the Aga Khan Museum, TorontoThe Aga Khan and Prime Minister Harper open the Aga Khan Museum, image by Jack Landau

Following the ceremonies, performances and a reception took place within the Museum's walls.

The Aga Khan Museum, designed by Fumihiko Maki, TorontoReflections at the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, image by Craig White

The museum was designed by Pritzker Award-winning architect Fumihiko Maki. Influenced by the geometric patterns of Islamic ornamentation, the building sits serenely within park. Its canted Brazilian granite walls change quickly with the sunlight and the bounces off of the reflecting pools.

The Aga Khan Museum, designed by Fumihiko Maki, TorontoReflections at the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, image by Craig White

The park, designed by Lebanese Architect Vladimir Djurovic, is planted and is open, but is not yet officially open. That declaration will be made next year once the trees, shrubs, and flowers are more established. The grounds include occasional artworks related to exhibitions within the buildings. Toronto-based Moriyama & Teshima Architects coordinated the design work across the site.

The Aga Khan Museum, designed by Fumihiko Maki, TorontoWalkways and gardens surround the Aga Khan Museum, image by Craig White

The Museum includes a restaurant, to open in mid-October. A patio, edged in cedars, will provide al fresco dining in good weather.

The Aga Khan Museum, designed by Fumihiko Maki, TorontoThe restaurant patio at the Aga Khan Museum, image by Craig White

Across the park from the museum is the Ismaili Centre, designed by the renowned architect Charles Correa. The Centre incorporates spaces for social and cultural gatherings, intellectual engagement and for spiritual reflection. Its centrepiece is a crystalline skylit space, its translucent skin glowing at night. The Ismaili Centre, administered separately from the museum, is still working out its plans for public visits.

The Ismaili Centre Toronto, designed by Charles CorreaThe Ismaili Centre Toronto, designed by Charles Correa, image by Craig White

As of today, however, the Aga Khan Museum is open, and is yours to explore, 6 days a week, Tuesday through Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM, and Thursdays until 8 PM. You can buy tickets upon arrival, but the Museum is stressing that certain days are already sold out so it is much better to buy your tickets online before visiting to make sure you are not turned away. The Museum is also presenting an eclectic program of performing arts events and lectures, some of which happen after gallery hours. For a current list of events you can visit this page.

Whirling Dervishes perform after the opening ceremonies of the Aga Khan Museum, Whirling Dervishes perform after the opening ceremonies of the Aga Khan Museum, image by Craig White

With that, we will leave the complex for now, but hope to bring you back in soon for a look at the interior spaces.

Want to know more about the Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre? Our dataBase file for the site includes a full set of renderings of the complex. Want to talk about it? You can join in on the discussion in our associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.