Museums have a strong educational impact as they exhibit and present documentation of material cultures that appeals to people on both intellectual and emotional level. The Aga Khan museum designed by the famous Japanese Architect Fumihiko Maki is set within a 6.8-hectare park it shares with the Ismaili Centre surrounded by a formal garden, situated upon a small hillock with an extending panoramic distant view of the Toronto skyline. The museum encourages knowledge and understanding both with the Islamic community and other cultures around the world.
The First Museum in North America – presenting the Islamic art and culture
The Aga Khan Museum, the first museum in North America is dedicated to presenting the Islamic art and culture that varies in different centuries. The Museum is one of the three remarkable creations on the site, joining it is the Ismaili Centre designed by Indian Architect Charles Correa which integrates spaces for social and cultural gatherings along with a formal Islamic Garden of reflective pools inspired by Charbagh’s idea by Lebanese Landscape Architect Vladimir Djurovic. The Aga Khan Museum is a vibrant place full of life and art with a sense of spirituality and secularism. It houses galleries, exhibition spaces, classrooms, a reference library, an auditorium, and a restaurant. The main concept of the museum including its architecture and landscape design is to create a connection between past and present, Islam and West, and most importantly between the people.
Concept of Aga Khan Museum
His Highness Aga Khan wrote a letter to Fumihiko Maki where he asked him to design the museum around the light concept. Also the notion of “Light” that glows from within, the light of God’s Creation, the light of human creativity and openness.
Fumihiko Maki tries to reflect Aga Khan’s beliefs and ideologies by designing the building as a celebration of light with a playful effect. That can experience as one travels across the museum. For e.g. the use of an angled facade with a constant interplay of natural rays and shadows creates an effect similar to a sundial. Inside the building, a fully glazed courtyard on all four sides is etched with a pattern. That is inspired by the traditional jali pattern referred to as the “mashrabiya” pattern of Islamic Architecture. Moreover, the changing pattern of the sun over the course of the day. This etching casts intricate patterns across the smooth white interior walls.
Planning of Aga Khan Museum
The building is simple and compact with an 81x 54-meter rectangular plan. That can divide majorly into four areas: For example, two exhibition galleries, a 350 seat auditorium, a multimedia library, and educational facilities. The permanent exhibition area is located on the ground floor which is home to over 1000 beautiful masterpieces. Which showcases the art and artifacts of Muslim Civilisation from the Iberian Peninsula to China. It’s a broad collection of artistic styles, manuscripts, paintings, ceramics, representing more than 10 centuries of human history and culture.
The double-height area offers a sense of grandeur emphasized by the subdued light filtered through the hexagonal skylight. The hexagon is the religious symbol for heaven in Islamic art. Also, widely used in complexes like the hexagonal staircase. They are leading to the upper level of the auditorium against the blue plaster wall. Moreover, the origami-shaped dome crowning the auditorium stands as a prominent feature of the building.
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The second floor houses temporary exhibitions for modern artists based on historic, geographic, cultural, and thematic groupings. Also, the Diwan Restaurant features intricate wall designs offering delicacies from the Middle East amid the breathtaking outdoor views.
The museum is a source of pride and identity, showing the Muslim culture and heritage. Also, it organizes events and activities that include exhibitions, theatrical, dance programs, concerts, lectures, workshops, and other special events. The outer facade is clad in sandblasted white Brazilian granite. In addition, the museum offers a magnificent experience with naturally lit spaces. Also, the whole complex is a symbolic marker of the permanent presence of the Islamic community in Canada. However, it promotes cultural, religious, and intellectual exploration.
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