Toronto’s spectacular new Aga Khan Museum has made two top travel destination lists: Fast Company Design’s Top 12 Destinations for Globetrotting Design Lovers and Azure Magazine’s Top 10 Architecture Projects 2014. Opened in September 2014, the Aga Khan Museum is the first museum in North America dedicated to the arts of Muslim civilizations.
Cross-cultural exchange is central to the museum’s mission. Speaking recently of The Lost Dhow: A Discovery from the Maritime Silk Route, an exhibition about the shipwreck and cargo of a 9th-century Arab sailing vessel, Museum Director and CEO Henry Kim said, “The Lost Dhow exhibition is a natural fit with the Aga Khan Museum. The cross-cultural exchange exemplified by the dhow’s cargo is exactly what our collection and programming both celebrate and explore.”
The Aga Khan Museum in Toronto was founded by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, cultural arm of the Aga Khan Development Network. His Highness the Aga Khan personally suggested to architect Fumihiko Maki that the Museum be designed around the concept of light, since light has inspired religions and civilizations from early times. Positioned 45 degrees to solar north, the museum’s white Brazilian granite exterior gleams in the sun. Inside, light and pattern play in the courtyard which is surrounded by 13-meter-tall glass walls etched with mashrabiya patterns.
Across a formal garden featuring five granite reflecting pools, the museum faces the crystal-like dome of the Ismaili Centre Toronto. The entire complex was a $300-million gift to the city by the Aga Khan, the Harvard-educated development pioneer and spiritual leader to the world’s 15 million Ismaili Muslims who consider him a direct descendent of the prophet Muhammad.
According to an article in Toronto Life, Canada’s relationship with the Ismaili community spans four decades. When Idi Amin expelled Asians from Uganda in 1972, the Aga Khan phoned his friend Pierre Trudeau to request safe passage for 5,000 Ismailis. That group has since grown to about 100,000, nearly half of them living in Toronto. For more on the Aga Khan and the museum, see this Guardian article.
The Aga Khan Museum is located in east Toronto at 77 Wynford Drive. The nearest major intersection is Don Mills and Eglinton Avenue E. The 100 Flemingdon Park bus, from either Broadview TTC station or Eglinton TTC station, stops very near the museum on Wynford Drive. Plan half a day to see the museum’s exquisite permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, and enjoy the garden.
The museum shop offers a curated collection of decorative and educational items. Light refreshments are available at a coffee kiosk in the courtyard. Diwan Restaurant offers fine-dining lunch and dinner menus inspired by the cuisines of Iran, Turkey, North Africa, India and Central Asia.
For information, including admission prices, exhibitions, cultural programming, museum and restaurant hours, see Aga Khan Museum.
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