His Highness the Aga Khan, Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslim community, has made a contribution in excess of $25 million for the Aga Khan Garden in Alberta. 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 His Highness 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, His Highness 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 His Highness.
“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 His Highness 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.”
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.
A series of waterfalls flow down from the terraces to the Calla Pond.
Aerial view of the Aga Khan Garden.
An opening in the woods hosts a fountain which reflects the Alberta sky.
An amphitheater in a natural bowl presents new space for programs.
The Chahar Bagh reflects the geometry of Islamic traditions.
The Bustan is an orchard of flowering trees surrounding the Calla Pond.
Snow will emphasize the geometric structure of the Chahar Bagh.